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5 states where the GAO found health plan bargains

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Individual major medical insurance plan menus look fine this year in the 28 states that can provide good plan menu data.

See also: 3 GAO discoveries about health insurer competition

The monthly premium for the cheapest silver plan available fell, held steady or increased less than 5 percent between 2014 and 2015 in about half of the U.S. counties in those 28 states with good plan menu data, in both the entire individual major medical market and in the public health insurance exchange market, according to analysts at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The median premium value fell, held steady or increased less than 5 percent in 47 percent of the counties analyzed, in both the whole market and the exchange market.

The GAO also found evidence of improvement in plan option availability.

In the on-exchange markets in 38 states, “we found that consumers in 88 percent of the counties had access to six or more bronze exchange plans, consumers in 94 percent of counties had access to six or more silver exchange plans, and consumers in 71 percent of counties had access to six or more gold exchange plans,” John Dicken, a GAO director, writes in a report summarizing the analysts’ findings.

In the 28 states with good whole-market data, the percentage of counties in which consumers had six or more choices in the bronze, silver and gold tiers has increased and, this year, consumers in every county in those states have access to six or more options in the bronze, silver and gold tiers, Dicken says.

The GAO analysts put the 2014-to-2015 premium and menu change data in an analysis of how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) affected coverage prices and options.

See also: Who had the toughest PPACA exchange competition?

Health insurers had to file their 2015 rates and plan menus in early 2014, before they had much information about how the PPACA public exchange system or PPACA major medical underwriting restrictions would really work, and before they had any information about how the PPACA “three R’s” risk-management programs would work.

Regulators are now completing reviews of plan menus for 2016. The picture could look much different in 2016.

See also: PPACA open enrollment 2015: Popcorn time

Dicken notes that the numbers for 2014 and 2015 are incomplete: For 22 states, the GAO analysts were unable to get complete data for the public exchange market, the off-exchange market, or both.

In the District of Columbia, for example, the jurisdiction that operates the exchange program that provides health coverage for members of Congress, the analysts were unable to get any data for 2014 or 2015. The analysts could get 2015 plan data for only 34 percent of the plans in Minnesota, and just 60 percent of the plans in Washington state.

But, for the 28 states with good plan menu data, the analysts were able to prepare a table showing the price of the cheapest silver plan, and the most expensive silver plan, available to a 30-year-old in each state for 2014 and 2015.

In those 28 states, the monthly premiums for the most expensive silver plans available range from $196 to $680 in Hawaii. For bargain hunters, the state with the most expensive cheapest silver plan option is Louisiana. There, the cheapest silver plan costs $245.

For the five least expensive silver plans available in the 28 states studied, read on.

Kansas

5. Kansas

2015 minimum premium value: $170

2014 minimum premium value: $167

2015 average number of plans per county: 32

2014 average number of plans per county: 36

See also: 10 best states for health insurance carrier jobs

Nashville

4. Tennessee

2015 minimum premium value: $161

2014 minimum premium value: $160

2015 average number of plans per county: 73

2014 average number of plans per county: 62

See also: PPACA tax penalty drove more spring health sales in South

Philadelphia

3. Pennsylvania

2015 minimum premium value: $151

2014 minimum premium value: $145

2015 average number of plans per county: 32

2014 average number of plans per county: 22

See also: Report: A Republican Supreme Court victory on PPACA could backfire in 2016 swing states 

Louisville

2. Kentucky

2015 minimum premium value: $148

2014 minimum premium value: $163

2015 average number of plans per county: 14

2014 average number of plans per county: 20

See also: AMA quantifies Cigna and Humana deal effects on market competition

Cactus

1. Arizona

2015 minimum premium value: $147

2014 minimum premium value: $147

2015 average number of plans per county: 42

2014 average number of plans per county: 35

See also: PPACA: What are American Indian and Native Alaskan officials saying?

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