Wisconsin insurance costs vary widely
Location matters when it comes to health insurance costs in Wisconsin.
Combining premiums and deductibles, Superior residents paid, on average, 11.4 percent more for health insurance last year than people living in Madison, according to an annual report from Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
It could be worse: Green Bay residents paid 17.6 percent more than those in Madison and people in Eau Claire just under 20 percent more.
"Where you live matters a lot — by thousands and thousands of dollars," said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action, during a telephone news conference on Wednesday. "Some parts of the state are more disadvantaged than others."
It was the 12th year the nonprofit agency issued a health insurance cost ranking report for the state, a period of time that has demonstrated "hyperinflation" in health care, Kraig said. The cost of insurance for large group markets — those insuring large and medium-sized businesses — rose 209 percent statewide from 2000 to 2018, according to the report. But the report also said that inflation has dropped dramatically — to 1 percent — for those markets since the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2013.
Kraig and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, during the news conference, warned against dismantling the act. Efforts to "sabotage" the Affordable Care Act — such as shortening the enrollment period for the individual marketplace — already have produced instability and price increases, Kind argued.
The report also noted a gap between those receiving insurance via large group plans and those insured by small group or individual plans. Health insurance premiums in the large group market actually decreased last year for the first time in the history of the report, Kraig said. But individual and small group insurance premiums went up dramatically.
The report showed Superior was the sixth-highest among 20 metro areas for annual premium and deductibles for a single person, at an average cost of $10,133. The highest average cost was $10,908 in Eau Claire and the lowest $9,095 in Madison.
It's thought that health insurance is cheaper in Madison than elsewhere in the state because of the effect of the state employee plan in the city that's home to state government and the main campus of the University of Wisconsin, Kraig said. The larger pool of employees gives that plan a competitive advantage.
"In terms of the differential between other regions in the state, it really does have to do with: What are the underlying medical prices?" he said. "The differential is going to be what big health systems are charging."
Alice Thompson, who runs an environmental consulting firm in southeastern Wisconsin, said that last year she paid $853 per month for a health plan with a $2,500 deductible. For 2018, getting a $2,700 deductible would have cost her $1,541 per month, so she switched to a $6,250 deductible with a monthly premium of $947.
"I'm distraught," Thompson said at the news conference. "These prices are unsustainable for small businesses."