Thanks for your question. Insurance rates reflect the costs of claims and the regulatory and taxation costs. For example, the monthly payment on a $60,000 car would be higher than the costs on a $10,000 car. A lot of confusion and emotion comes in because health insurance is not insurance in the pure sense of insurance. Insurance is to help protect against an uncertainty and risk. There is no other type of insurance that takes on certain risks and costs.
I have been in the insurance business since 1982. I am a managing general agent in insurance. I am a managing general agent for AARP Medicare plans as well as many other plans and carriers. I work domestically in the US and worldwide. Insurance costs are high in the US because healthcare costs are far and away the highest in the world. Our insurance rates reflect our healthcare costs. Healthcare costs go down and insurance would go down. Health insurance companies operate on very small margins. Many companies leave the business because they lose money. They are required to have large reserves to cover losses. My job would be much, much easier if healthcare in the US cost less and so insurance cost less.
Cobra rates are what the employer rates are. If a family rate is $1200 for the employer, then the COBRA would be the same or up to 2% more, no higher. This is a shock to many people as they only see their portion of the costs.
This brings us to what causes a lot of confusion. Most of what people see is really employee benefits, which is a form of compensation. It may include health insurance, but should be seen in a different light. It is part of an employee's compensation. The employer is compensating the employee with healthcare benefits.
This started in WWII. Companies were not allowed to raise pay so they came up with other ways to attract employees and employer sponsored health insurance was one of those.
BTW, turning 50 and being a member of AARP will not lower your rates. AARP is not an insurance company. It is an association. Insurance rates are regulated by the state departments of insurance and the same plan offered through AARP or not through AARP has the same rates by law.