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City vs. city: When it comes to health insurance costs, geography matters

A new Federal database allows companies, consumers, health care analysts, and others to compare health insurance costs among the nation's largest cities and other geographical areas for the first time. This new metropolitan area data table, developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), provides comparable statistics on average annual costs for companies and workers contributing to private-sector health insurance. The estimates, which are from AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for 2004, show large geographical variations in how much Americans pay for family coverage and individual coverage as well as how much employers contribute to workers' health insurance premiums. The new data for the 20 largest metro areas indicates that:

  • For family health insurance plans, Seattle workers contributed the most (an average $3,299 per year) and New York City-area workers contributed the least ($1,851).
  • Average premiums for family coverage were highest in New York ($11,244) and lowest ($8,521) in the Riverside, California metro area, which includes San Bernardino and Ontario.
  • For individual coverage, Boston workers paid the most ($867). Workers in Riverside paid the least ($449).
  • Premiums for single coverage were highest in San Francisco ($4,185) and lowest in Riverside, ($3,012).

The database includes statistical averages from the following cities and surrounding areas: New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Dallas-Fort Worth; Miami; Houston; Washington, DC; Atlanta; Detroit; Boston; San Francisco; Riverside, CA; Phoenix; Seattle; Minneapolis; San Diego; St. Louis; Baltimore; and Tampa.

The database also provides comparisons within States. For example, in the northern and central counties of New Jersey and part of the New Jersey shore, workers contributed an average of $1,676 for family coverage. In areas of New Jersey farther from New York City, such as Atlantic City and Camden, workers contributed an average of $3,079—84 percent more.

This newest addition to AHRQ's extensive data on employer-based health insurance can be accessed at

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