Coverage, Price, and Competition in the Small Group Health Insurance Market

Last week as I was researching this story about Utah’s new health insurance exchange, I wandered into a trove health care data. Using Many Eyes, a free tool from IBM that lets you easily visualize data, I put together the maps embedded below to compare health insurance coverage, price, and competition in the small group market (for employers with under 50 workers).

The idea is to use the data to find relationships between how many small employers offer coverage, the price of insurance (measured by average annual single premiums), and the market share of the largest carrier in each state (where available). You can zoom in and scroll over each state to get this info. (Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to display all three data sets on one map at the same time.)

I don’t think the visualization offers any clear explanations. Nebraska has among the highest premiums and the lowest coverage. But then New Hampshire and New Jersey have high premiums as well, and they both have a relatively high share of small businesses offering insurance. The insurance market is highly concentrated in Alabama, with one carrier controlling 96% of the small group market. But the state’s premiums are lower than Louisiana, where there’s a more competitive market, and a greater number of businesses offer insurance in Alabama.

I’m most interested in whether these figures reflect your experience shopping for health insurance in your state. Do you feel there’s less competition than the chart shows? Do the average premiums sound right to you? Let me know in a comment.

I’ve also set up a topic center at Many Eyes where anyone who’s so inclined can share more data on small business health care.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.