New England among the costliest for individual health plans

Premiums for individual market health plans vary widely across the country, with Connecticut and New England among the most expensive, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The average monthly per-person premium nationwide last year was $215, but the costs varied significantly between states. In Vermont and Massachusetts, premiums averaged more than $400 a month, and every state in New England, as well as New York and New Jersey, had costs over $275. Connecticut’s average monthly cost was $306. The lowest-cost states were Alabama ($136), California ($157), and Arkansas ($163). The figures represent the average for individual market plans across adults and children; single adults likely pay more, according to the report.

Health insurance premiums can vary based on a number of favors, including an area’s cost of living, health care costs, demographic factors such as age, the benefits offered by a plan and patient cost-sharing, the report says. In addition, several northeast states–Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and New Jersey–have already made insurance reforms that allow people with pre-existing conditions to enroll in health insurance, potentially raising the cost of premiums.

The report notes that the way people perceive federal health reform’s changes to health insurance will depend significantly on how the post-reform premiums compare to current costs. Beginning in 2014, health plans sold on the exchanges–state-level marketplaces for people to buy coverage–will be required to cover people regardless of pre-existing health conditions. They will be allowed to vary the rates of each policy based on age, family status, tobacco use and geographic area.