(Photo Credit: PBS.org)
On the eve of the Republican Presidential debate on CNN, I asked myself: What would the candidates pay for health insurance if they had to buy it themselves like millions of the rest of us? How many plan choices would they have? Could they save money by shopping around?
The answers are, they would have a lot of choices, and if they were smart (they are, right?), they could save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
I took a look at 18 candidates—14 Republicans and four Democrats, using the data available at HealthCare.com. (HealthCare.com is a private company that has the largest source of on- and off-exchange plans, including plans that are offered at healthcare.gov).
Fourteen of the candidates are under age 65, which means they could shop at HealthCare.com to compare plans that are offered on their state exchange, the federal marketplace, or plans offered directly by carriers. For illustration purposes, I assumed in my analysis that none of the presidential candidates qualify for a premium tax credit to buy health insurance. For each candidate, I compared the lowest priced Silver plan to the highest price Silver plan. The Silver plans are by far the most popular of the metal plans, and the plan that is the benchmark for premium subsidies. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, nearly 70% of Americans bought a Silver plan.
Who would pay the least? Ted Cruz age 44 of Texas, would pay $271 a month for a Silver plan while his fellow 44 year-olds, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Marco Rubio of Florida would pay $319 a month and $299 a month, respectively. Jeb Bush would pay the most of any candidate — $615 a month for the lowest Silver plan in Florida. But if he chose the highest cost Silver plan his premium would be $1,179 a month.
Governor Bush could save more than $5,000 a year by not buying the highest cost Silver health insurance plan, although his provider network may be reduced for the lower cost plan. On average, the under age 65 Presidential candidates could save more than $2,600 a year by picking the lowest cost Silver plan in their hometown vs. the highest cost plan. And, on average, they could choose from seven different health insurance companies and compare 82 different plans.
What about those over 65? There are three Democrats over the age of 65, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb, and one Republican, Donald Trump. For those over age 65, I analyzed the difference between the lowest cost Medicare Supplement plan and the highest cost plan. We used eHealth to compare plans and prices. There are also wide variations in price, and lots of choices for the more senior candidates.
And which candidate has the most choices of all? Donald Trump, of course. It is good to be The Donald. Seriously, there are lots of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement options in New York, and in most other states.
No matter who you are, shopping around for a new health insurance plan will save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars this November. Just like a Presidential candidate, there are many choices, and an individual has to make a decision that uniquely fits them. Shop around this November.
Prices listed in examples are for the presidential candidates only, and does not include their family members. Plans and pricing are for 2015 ACA plans.