A GoBankingRates study ranked Pittsburgh as fifth in the nation for best health insurance costs.
The survey found that although sometimes Pennsylvania residents choose plans with costly premiums, the low deductibles and flat copays have “led to better prices and plans for residents.”
In Pennsylvania, residents have about 20 health insurance companies offering essential benefits, such as emergency services, mental health services and maternity and newborn care, under the Affordable Care Act, including Aetna, Geisinger Health Plan, UPMC and Highmark. GoBankingRates credits the high ranking in the survey to the competition fostered by the numerous options.
Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, said that Gov. Tom Wolf and Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller have made it a priority to maintain the competitive market established in Pennsylvania.
“Every person, every individual in the state of Pennsylvania, has at least four different options to choose from,” Ruman said. “The top priority in approving rates [from insurance companies] was … to maintain that competitive market because it leads to more options and better prices.”
New Mexico took the top spot for offering a trifecta of low premiums, low deductibles and flat-fee copays. Utah, California and Texas trailed New Mexico.
Delaware, Indiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and New Jersey were among the states with the worst health insurance costs, with Wyoming claiming the lowest spot.
The survey looked at silver plan options, one of four “metal categories” in the Affordable Care Act where the insurance company covers 70 percent of cost. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 65 percent of those who purchased health insurance in the nation chose the silver option in 2014.
The survey chose to focus on insurance rates for a single, 40-year-old man who earns $40,000 a year and “lives in a major metropolitan area.”
Pennsylvania has been enrolled since 2012 as a “federally facilitated marketplace” state, meaning that a portion of the options for health insurance plans are organized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Based on a Department of Health and Human Services survey, nearly 472,700 residents of Pennsylvania enrolled in federally facilitated insurance options in 2015. The same study found that 51 percent of residents who were eligible for Advance Premium Tax Credit had a monthly premium of $100 or less.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), at the beginning of January, 8.6 million U.S. residents had enrolled in health insurance for 2016. In Pennsylvania, 412,914 people have enrolled, according to CMS figures. The deadline to apply for 2016 coverage is Jan. 31.
Despite the promising statistics, a large portion of the population in Pennsylvania remains uninsured. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 994,000 Pennsylvania residents were uninsured as of October, less than 8 percent of the state population.
Ruman said the Pennsylvania government has been working to bring the percentage of uninsured people down even more by publicizing the insurance options through press conferences, radio talk shows and resources available on their website. In addition, Gov. Wolf recently expanded funding for Medicaid.
“The percentage [of uninsured residents] has been falling, and we expect it to fall further,” Ruman said. “We’re certainly working to make it fall further and we’ll keep working until the end when everyone’s insured.”