The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health Plan decreased its premiums significantly for policies sold on the federal exchange this upcoming enrollment period, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
On Sunday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Healthcare.gov is open for consumers to visit and compare premiums for plans in their area.
For a 21-year-old, a UPMC Health Plan silver policy starts at $133 a month, notes the Post-Gazette, which is the least expensive silver plan offered in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
Then there's Highmark, which sells plans in the same county as UPMC Health Plan.
For a 21-year-old, a Highmark silver policy starts at $140 a month, according to the Post-Gazette.
Although the difference in price is minimal, last year Highmark's plans were among some of the least expensive in the country, states the publication. UPMC Health Plan, on the other hand, had higher prices and the insurer accused Highmark of underpricing policies to grab business.
But several factors influenced the pricing of health coverage products this year, according to Gina Pferdehirt, a UPMC Health Plan spokeswoman.
"This year, the penalties have increased; as such, even healthier persons are more likely to purchase coverage to avoid paying these penalties, [further] balancing the overall risk pool," she told the publication.
This pricing battle speaks to the larger issue at hand between UPMC and Highmark. This summer, after the two decided to stop working together, they entered a consent decree which states Highmark's members can continue using UPMC providers at in-network rates.
So while the battle between the two should not affect consumers' purchasing decisions, the increase in premiums will, since consumers often purchase plans not based on provider network, but rather, on price, notes the paper.
- here's the Post-Gazette piece