U.S. News & World Report Issues New Ratings of Health Insurance Plans

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A U.S. News & World Report analysis published today uncovered striking variation in the costs and benefits of health insurance plans sold to individuals and families. The report comes as U.S. News announced the release of Best Health Insurance Plans, an interactive tool featuring ratings and data on the nearly 6,000 health plans the publication analyzed.

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According to the analysis, the first of its kind, certain states have few if any plans offering benefits broad enough to protect individuals and families from possible financial catastrophe in the event of a major illness. Alaska (which like several other states had few plans available for analysis) and Washington had the lowest proportions of plans offering what U.S. News rated as 4-star or 5-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 4 out of 5 stars.

The Best Health Insurance Plans ratings cover all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ratings reflect 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. About 14 million people currently have individual or family health insurance, a number expected to grow as health reform provisions are phased in.

The U.S. News analysis revealed differences in the cost of coverage. The majority of plans nationwide require hospital patients to pay at least 20 percent of hospitals' and physicians' fees. For a hospitalized individual whose care costs $20,000 and whose deductible is $2,700 (the national median), a 20 percent coinsurance rate could translate to more than $6,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

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. (Massachusetts offers subsidies to help residents with household incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty line pay for coverage.) The full report, Many Insurance Plans Heap Healthcare Costs on Consumers, is available online.

Consumers using Best Health Insurance Plans can search by age, gender, ZIP code, family size, and smoking status to compare the ratings and costs of plans available to them.

To create the ratings, U.S. News tapped a federal database run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Data used in the ratings were retrieved in August 2012 from healthcare.gov.

About U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report is a multi-platform, digital publisher of news and analysis, which includes the digital-only U.S. News Weekly magazine, www.usnews.com, and www.rankingsandreviews.com. Focusing on Health, Money, Education, Travel, Cars, and Public Service/Opinion, U.S. News has earned a reputation as the leading provider of service news and information that improves the quality of life of its readers. U.S. News & World Report's signature franchise includes its News You Can Use® brand of journalism and its "Best" series of consumer guides that include rankings of colleges, graduate schools, hospitals, mutual funds, health plans, and more.

SOURCE U.S. News & World Report