Cost of exchange insurance plans vary by region

The healthcare reform law aims to offer affordable health insurance coverage, but there are still regions where even the least costly plans are relatively expensive for various reasons--including provider market share dominance and the size of the tourist population.

The 10 most expensive geographic regions, based on the lowest-price silver plan, include the states of Alaska and Vermont, as well as large portions of Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to Kaiser Health News.

Limited availability of hospitals and specialists--not a sicker population--is a common driver of high premiums, since providers can command high prices from insurers, the article noted. For example, one hospital system dominates the Southwest Georgia region, where the cheapest silver plan costs $461 a month. Several counties in Southwest Georgia comprise the second most expensive insurance marketplace.

Meanwhile, tourists are raising insurance rates for residents in Summit County, Colo., a premier travel destination. Rates are based on the price and utilization of medical services, which takes into account all medical visits, including tourists who seek care, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. The Colorado mountain resort region is the most expensive insurance marketplace, with insurers charging $483 a month for the lowest-price silver plan, KHN reported.

To look at whether premiums will increase, decrease or remain the same in the post-reform health insurance market, the Government Accountability Office in July 2013 broke down premium costs on a state-by-state basis. The GAO found insurers charge a range of premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs based on characteristics such as members' age, health history, family size and geographic location.

What's more, those varied premiums could send Americans to another county or across state lines to get better or cheaper healthcare coverage--especially as the public becomes more aware of different geographical pricing now that health insurance exchanges allow consumers to compare plans by ZIP code.

To learn more:
- read the KHN article