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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU, Iowa: Comparing Premiums under ACA Can be Misleading

Health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act can vary widely between and within states, but simple comparisons are often misleading, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The study, led by Dr. Abigail Barker at Washington University, found that state policy decisions in implementing the ACA cause wide variations in premiums charged by the plans, which can lead to a temptation to make “apples-to-oranges” comparisons. These comparisons can be misleading, however, because some states group rural counties together, while others mix them.  And some of the highest-valued “platinum” plans are not available everywhere.

When comparing plans in the Health Insurance Marketplaces, analysts should consider:

“Simple comparisons of plans can be misleading, such as averaging the cost of plans in each rating area,” said Dr. Timothy McBride, professor at the Brown School, and a co-author of “A Guide to Understanding the Variation in Premiums in Rural Health Insurance Marketplaces”, published in May by the Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis. Other authors include Ms. Leah Kemper, MPH, at the Brown School, and Dr. Keith Mueller, professor at the University of Iowa.

To read more, find both briefs at: