Medical Alert: New Online Tool Finds Best Health Insurance Plans

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October 5, 2012 ‐ By Ann Brown

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This is shocking. According to a U.S. News & World Report analysis, certain states have few—if any—health insurance plans that offer benefits broad enough to protect individuals and families in the event of a major illness. Isn’t that the point of health insurance?

In conjunction with this report,  U.S. News also released the Best Health Insurance Plans, an interactive tool featuring ratings and data on the nearly 6,000 health plans the publication analyzed.  The Best Health Insurance Plans ratings cover all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The states are rated on scope of coverage for various services, such as hospitalizations, emergency room visits, prescriptions, and cost to consumers paid out of pocket. Plans available to both individuals and families received two separate ratings.

According to the analysis, Alaska and Washington had the lowest number of plans offering what U.S. News rated as four-star or five-star coverage — no more than 10 percent of the plans evaluated in either state. By contrast, all Massachusetts plans and more than 70 percent of those in New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia earned at least four out of five stars. The report found that while Massachusetts plans had among the highest premiums in the nation, about 45 percent of plans in that state fully cover (once the deductible has been satisfied) hospitalization, doctors’ charges during hospitalization, and imaging, offering patients greater protection against unexpected healthcare costs. The state also offers subsidies to help residents with household incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty line pay for coverage.

Hospitalization still remains costly. According to the U.S. News analysis, for a hospitalized individual whose care costs $20,000 and whose deductible is $2,700 (the national median), a 20 percent co-insurance rate could translate to more than $6,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

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