In southern Los Angeles County, for example, Health Net is charging $242 a month for one of its plans. Blue Shield is charging $287 and Kaiser Permanente $325 for the same coverage.
For the first time, consumers are in a position to make an informed decision about health insurance. They can opt for the lowest-priced plan or they can factor in other considerations, such as personal convenience.
Here’s the best example of the comparision shopping that I’ve seen:
Comparison shopping for health insurance isn’t a revolutionary idea. You can already go to websites such as eHealthInsurance.com to sample what’s available. But that’s kind of like going to a department store to shop for shoes.
There may be plenty of choices at a Macy’s or a Nordstrom, and prices may vary, but it’s hard to know which ones are best. Different pairs of shoes might offer different features, or different workmanship, or come from different parts of the world.
The beauty of the insurance exchanges is that they’ll make all participating insurance plans equal. So when one plan is offered at a particular tier — Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze — for significantly less than another, you’ll know you’re getting a better deal, not sacrificing quality for price.
And insurers, at last, will compete by offering the best coverage at the lowest price, rather than trying to sell you as little coverage as possible for the highest price, which is how the market is currently structured.
I take some exception to the last paragraph. With the MLR (minimum loss ratio) insurers are already operating under, they cannot charge random prices. Another item that people may not realize is a bronze plan from one insurer is not exactly the same as a bronze plan from another. What they have in common is from an actuarial perspective they both will, on average, pay 60% of the medical expenses of the plan members.