Report: Fairfield County Has Ninth Highest Insurance Rates Under Obamacare

Feb 4, 2014

Credit Nick Aldwin / via Flickr

A new report lists the top ten most expensive insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act. One of them is in Connecticut. 

The top ten are a mix of places you might expect, and places you might not. Fairfield County is ranked ninth. The Colorado region around Aspen and Vail are first. In between them are southwest Georgia, rural Nevada, most of Wyoming, and all of Vermont.

Fairfield County is different. It's the only area in the top ten with a mix of rich suburbs and poor inner cities.

Jordan Rau, senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News, did the analysis.

"They're not places that you think of -- Beverly Hills or New York City, really expensive cost-of-living places. Those aren't the places that are the most expensive in the country," Rau said. "They're largely rural areas, somewhat isolated, often with just one or two providers."

Rau said it's not entirely clear what leads to the results. In uncompetitive areas, doctors and hospitals may be able to name their price -- and insurance companies pay them. And some places may also have sicker people who use more services. But Fairfield County is different. It was the only area in the top ten with a mix of rich suburbs and poor inner cities.

"One thing is that, in Fairfield, with the exception of Bridgeport, which has two hospitals, all the other cities or towns, the major ones, just have one hospital," he said.  "So that's a possibility -- that the insurers just had to set their price."

The average monthly premium for the most popular plans under Obamacare is $383 in Fairfield. That's 21 percent higher than a similar plan in Hartford County, and seven percent higher than in New Haven County. Rau said this new data, along with data in subsequent years, will help get closer to what he says are the real cost drivers in healthcare -- the providers.

"What, within that, is driving it?" Rau asked.  "Is that people are using particular services at a very high rate? Is it that particular specialities are charging exorbitant amounts? Is it that hospitals are really leveraging their market power to get as much money as possible?"

Those are questions Rau hopes to be able to answer in the next few years.