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Most Mountain West states see big increases in private health insurance costs, report finds

Memorial Hospital of Converse County sign in Douglas, Wyoming.
Tony Webster
Memorial Hospital of Converse County sign in Douglas, Wyoming.

Most people get health insurance through their employer or through public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. For those who pay for private or individual health insurance policies in the Mountain West, prices are going up.

ValuePenguin – a finance website owned by LendingTree – recently analyzed average private insurance costs by state. It used a “Silver” plan of a 40-year-old as an example, a middle-of-the-road option offered through the federal health insurance marketplace.

From 2022 to 2023, Colorado is seeing the second-highest increases in monthly health insurance costs – nearly 20% – compared to the national average of less than 4%. Wyoming and New Mexico also ranked in the top five with increases around 15%.

“What this means is if you are among the 10% of Americans who are buying health insurance in the private marketplace, you're probably going to see the sticker price of your health insurance plan a lot higher than anticipated,” said ValuePenguin's Divya Sangameshwar.

She noted that these prices are before income-based subsidies.

Meanwhile, Nevada, Utah and Idaho are seeing small decreases in average monthly private insurance premiums. Prices in Nevada and Utah are down less than 1% and down more than 6% in Idaho.

In terms of overall plan cost for 2023, the analysis ranks Wyoming as the most expensive in the country with an average monthly rate of $882 – about 57% higher than the national average of $560.

Wyoming is kind of the outlier in the region for having such expensive health insurance,” Sangameshwar said. “If you look at the rest of the region, it's actually below the national average, with the exception of Nevada, which is kind of at the national average.”

Why is Wyoming so expensive? That’s a good question – and the answer depends on who you ask. But she said premiums have been increasing across the board – and will continue to increase – due to rising health care costs.

Sangameshwar recently immigrated to the United States herself and found all of the insurance plans confusing. She encourages people to call their insurance companies and ask questions like she did before picking a plan.

“There are a lot of things you can do, very difficult choices you have to make,” she said. “The best way to help your community and yourself when it comes to health insurance is to talk to your friends and neighbors, talk to your insurance companies, talk to people in power, and try to find the answers until they satisfy you.”

To learn more about the health care plans referenced in the report, check out Healthcare.gov.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Emma VandenEinde
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