The current 2009 data (as reported 2010) from the Utah Department of Health show that Intermountain's average inpatient charges are 10% lower than those of other Utah providers.
Our outpatient surgery charges are 33% lower on average according to the most recent data (2008). Some critics have argued that charges don't matter, since virtually no insurer pays what healthcare providers charge.
While it's true that those with insurance are shielded from hospital charges, the uninsured aren't. Intermountain's lower charges are a benefit to Utah's uninsured, variously estimated at roughly 300,000 to 389,000 Utahns (2010 data).
We offer uninsured patients discounts up to 40% on the care they receive, on most lines of service. That includes:
- An automatic 25% discount;
- An additional 5% discount for payment within 30 days of discharge (total discount: 30%); or,
- An additional 15% discount for pre-payment of estimated charges (total discount: 40%).
Some exclusions may apply, as identified in Intermountain's policies and/or procedures.
Utah's Health Insurance Premiums
For those who do have insurance, Utah's health insurance premiums are also comparatively low:
An August 2011 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Utah's average monthly per-person health insurance premium in the individual market is below the national average.
The average monthly per-person premium in Utah in 2010 was $173. The national average was $215. Alabama ($136), California ($157), Arkansas ($163), Idaho ($167), and Delaware ($169) had the lowest average monthly premiums in the country, while Vermont and Massachusetts were among the highest (both had average per-member premiums over $400 per month).
Average Per-Person Monthly Premiums in the Individual Market, 2010
|| U.S. Average
| State Average Premium
The report reflects average premiums for plans sold to individuals and excludes employer-based plans, public plans, and other products. However, Kaiser says the results are a useful indicator of insurance affordability: "Given the fragmentation of the market and the lack of public data available about individual insurance premiums across the nation, the analysis provides an important baseline that consumers and policymakers can use to gauge the state of insurance affordability prior to the full implementation of health reform."
There are a variety of reasons why premiums might vary, the report stated. They include:
- Plans' effectiveness at controlling costs
- Plan benefits
- Healthcare costs
- Patient cost-sharing required
- Cost of living
- State demographics
- Risk pools: In some states that have instituted insurance market reforms-such as Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey-people with pre-existing conditions are allowed to enroll, which puts upward pressure on premiums, the study said. Meanwhile, states that allow medical underwriting may feel less pressure because the risk pools include a healthier-than-average population.
The study also included a caveat to its findings: "Though premiums are lower in some states, the people enrolled in these plans may have to pay higher deductibles or copayments that offset the savings in premiums," it stated. "Thus, the map does not take into account the relative protection offered by the plans."
The Kaiser report is consistent with other evidence indicating the relative affordability of health insurance in Utah. For example, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) conducts a Medical Expenditure Panel Survey that includes an Insurance Component. In this survey, Utah has been consistently below the U.S. average and among the lowest states in terms of average premiums for individuals and families. A 2006 study commissioned by the Utah legislature also found Utah health premiums to be lower compared to the "Neighboring States Benchmark" and the "Healthy States Benchmark."
SelectHealth contributes to Utah's positive performance. SelectHealth is known for its excellent service, high member satisfaction, and efficiency. For example, measuring administrative costs as a percentage of insurance premiums plus self-funded claims volume, SelectHealth's administrative expenses average between 10 percent and 11 percent. The national average is about 13 percent.
SelectHealth consistently ranks as the overall leader among similar Utah health plans in terms of the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) metrics. Moreover, high member satisfaction is demonstrated by the annual surveys of plan members conducted by the Utah Department of Health. Another indication of member satisfaction is the proprietary J.D. Power and Associates 2010-2011 U.S. Member Health Insurance Plan StudiesSM in which SelectHealth received the highest numerical score among commercial health plans in the Arizona-Utah region. The 2011 study was based on 33,039 total member responses, measuring six plans (excluding Medicare and Medicaid) in the Arizona-Utah Region.