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New health insurance policies are less expensive in Minnesota than western Wisconsin

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Obama-care costs a lot more far in western Wisconsin, than across the Saint Croix River in Minnesota. Insurance agent Dennis Conger said premiums on the new health exchanges in Pierce, Polk, and Saint Croix counties are almost twice as high as in Minnesota's Twin Cities' region. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press said it found the same disparity. The paper says it's not because Minnesota set up its own exchange, and Wisconsin didn't. Instead, it's because of the premiums created within the 400-plus geographic rating areas of the Affordable Care Act.

The Twin Cities has the nation's lowest benchmark premium for a 50-year-old non-smoker -- while that same non-smoker in western Wisconsin has the nation's second-highest benchmark premium.

Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation says it's one of the nation's highest cost disparities for neighboring regions. Cox says there could be several reasons -- including less competition between insurers on the Wisconsin side of the border. New Richmond insurance agent Linda Skoglund said the Twin Cities has plans in which consumers pay less, with more limits on the doctors they can see. She said those plans are not available in the Badger State.

The Pioneer Press says the price difference could also be the result of state Medicaid costs, each state's high-risk pool programs, and renewal dates for various policies.