Public health insurance exchanges are in their infancy, but they are growing into a potential game changer in the U.S. health insurance market.
In a recent study conducted by the Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the costs to policy holders for health plans offered on the public exchanges were found to be comparable to or lower than plans offered through private employers. "For the first-year results, we were surprised to see these [public exchanges] were right in there with what employers were offering," said Mike Thompson, principal at PwC's global human resources services practice.
Ceci Connolly, managing director of PwC's Health Research Institute, says the study is significant because it is the first to take an objective look at the numbers in the new public exchanges as opposed to comparing the new health plans to the historical individual insurance market. "The exchanges are competitive with plans serving the 156 million people in the employer-sponsored market," she told me. "That's a very important benchmark to look at."
The Health Research Institute is the research arm of PwC's practice. It does not conduct studies for hire.
PwC's research pegged the employer "active single" rate at $6,119, with the comparable public exchange median rate 4 percent lower at $5,844. The lowest public exchange rate for a similar individual was 20 percent lower at $4,885.