NU Online News Service, April 21, 2004, 1:05 p.m. EDT – Single U.S. consumers are paying an average of $151 per month for health coverage purchased through a major Web brokerage site, up from $148 a year ago.[@@]

EHealthInsurance Services Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., the company that runs the site, has published those figures in its latest report on the individual health market. The company based the latest figures on results for a sample of 62,000 customers who bought coverage from its site between August 2003 and March.

When eHealthInsurance generated the report, it had to leave out 8 states where it sells no coverage: Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.

EHealthInsurance has data for only 2 states ? New Jersey and New York ? that require health insurers to offer policies to all applicants, regardless of health status.

EHealthInsurance has no information about the percentage of customers in other states who apply through its site and are rejected because of poor health, a company spokeswoman says.

But eHealthInsurance notes that the quality of policies purchased through its site has improved: the percentage of individual customers who buy “comprehensive” policies that cover outpatient services and lab tests as well as inpatient coverage has increased to 94%, from 91%.

The increase in coverage quality and the modest 2% increase in national individual rates shows that the individual markets in most states are healthier than policymakers realize, eHealthInsurance argues.

In California, for example, the state with the biggest population, the average individual monthly rate rose just 3.5%, to $147.

New Jersey and New York are “community rating” states as well as guaranteed issue states. That means that those states require insurers to offer sick and healthy applicants the same rates.

The average individual monthly rate has increased only 3%, to $337, in New Jersey, but the average jumped 47%, to $333, in New York.

In related news, eHealthInsurance reports that consumers are paying relatively low rates for high-deductible health insurance plans that are compatible with the new federal health savings account program.

The company sells a total of 175 HSA-eligible plans in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

In those states, 71% of consumers who are buying HSA-eligible policies through the eHealthInsurance site are paying $100 or less per member per month for the policies, and 56% of those consumers are at least 40 years old, eHealthInsurance says.