What Supplemental Health Care Has Been Costing Us

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — With all of the hullabaloo over the Affordable Care Act rollout, the costs of supplemental insurance — health care services that aren't usually covered in standard health insurance plans — are being largely ignored.

That's a big mistake. After all, going to the dentist or optometrist or shopping for travel insurance can be as big an issue as going to a primary care physician to get an earache or a bum ankle checked out.

With good timing, eHealth, the Mountain View, Calif., online health care insurance exchange, unveiled its Costs of Supplemental Insurance Products Report last week examining costs from more than 39,000 U.S. consumer supplemental health care plans bought last year in the individual health care market.

Here are some costs the study found in data gathered last year:

Dental services: eHealth studied about 25,000 dental policies it helped sell last year. On average, consumers spent $30 per month for standard dental insurance. That declined for HMO dental plans, which clock in at $20 per month, on average. Looking at differences by age, it was the 35- to 44-years-olds paying the most per month ($37), while kids up to age 17 saw the lowest premiums ($23 per month.)

Vision plans: eHealth also studied 15,000 vision insurance policies and estimated the average cost of supplemental visual plans at $18 per month for Americans. The 25-to-34-years-olds bought the most vision plans last year (at 34% of all policies), but paid only an average $17 per month for eye insurance. Once again, 35-to-44-year-olds paid the most, at $21 per month. Surprisingly, older Americans, who usually suffer a higher rate of vision problems than other age groups, paid only $18 per month (for ages 65 and up.)

Accident insurance: eHealth didn't help close many accident insurance policies that weren't vehicle related — a total of 8,500 for all of last year. But the policies that did sell cost $25 per month on average, with Americans between the ages of 25 and 44 buying the most insurance (59% of all policies), but paying only $23 per month.

Travel health insurance: Individual travel health insurance cost significantly more than other supplemental insurances: $75 for an average plan (for a trip 40 days in duration). The average deductible was $952, according to eHealth, for $393,000 worth of travel health insurance.

If you add it all up, the average cost for buying insurance in all four key supplemental insurance categories is about $150 per month, give or take a few dollars.

— By Brian O'Connell

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