In eastern Tennessee, cheap premiums are notable because many residents face chronic health issues. Obesity and smoking are common. “We’re the buckle of the stroke belt,” said Kevin Spiegel, president of Erlanger Health System, which is included in the network of the least expensive silver plan in Chattanooga. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee was able to offer the lowest silver premiums in the Knoxville and Chattanooga regions — $180 a month for a 40-year-old — by cutting deals with just one hospital system and their doctors in each region, said Henry Smith, the insurer’s chief marketing officer.
“There are competing systems within those two regions to price against,” Smith said. These lowest premium plans are “the narrowest network we have by far.”
Likewise, in western Pennsylvania, Highmark was able to offer the low premium--$164 for a 40-year-old—by omitting nine hospitals and about 3,000 doctors who charge higher prices, according to spokeswoman Kristin Ash. Consumers wanting a wider network will have to pay Highmark 38 percent more a month.
These competitive markets are quite different than in southwest Georgia, the second most expensive region in the country. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia had no choice but to include in its network the Phoebe Putney Health System, which controls 86 percent of the market. The lowest premium in southwest Georgia is $461, two and a half times the rate in Chattanooga.
The 10 least expensive regions were determined by the lowest-cost silver premium for a 40-year-old person. The list is based on rates listed in federal and state insurance marketplaces and data compiled by Kaiser Family Foundation researchers. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) Cynthia Cox, a foundation analyst, said the cheapest silver plan cost less than $259 a month in half of the regional insurance markets.
Here are the least expensive areas:
$154: Minneapolis-St. Paul. Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne and Washington counties.
$164: Pittsburgh and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Warren, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
$166: Middle Minnesota. Benton, Stearns and Wright counties.
$167: Tucson, Ariz. Pima County.
$171: Northwestern Minnesota. Clearwater, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake counties.
$173: Salt Lake City. Davis and Salt Lake counties.
$180: Knoxville, Tenn. Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier & Union.
$180: Western and North Central Minnesota. Aitkin, Becker, Beltrami, Big Stone, Cass, Chippewa, Clay, Crow Wing, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Isanti, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pine, Pope, Renville, Roseau, Sibley, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wadena Wilkin and Yellow Medicine counties. In Chisago County, the lowest premium is $162.
Tue, Feb 11 2014