As Consumers Postpone Care, Insurers Make Record ProfitsThe New York Times: Health Insurers Making Record Profits As Many Postpone Care
The nation's major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among Americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care. The UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest commercial insurers, told analysts that so far this year, insured hospital stays actually decreased in some instances. In reporting its earnings last week, Cigna, another insurer, talked about the "low level" of medical use. Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. Many defend proposed double-digit increases in the rates they charge, citing a need for protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health, as well as the rising price of care (Abelson, 5/13).
The Wall Street Journal: Reports Show Strain Of Health Costs.
The latest Milliman Medical Index, which measures the total cost of health care for a typical family of four covered by a preferred provider plan (PPO), rose 7.3% to $19,393 in 2011. The per-employee cost more than doubled between 2002 and 2011. And the employee's share of that cost now stands at 39.7%. Outpatient care had the biggest cost hike, at 10%, followed by inpatient care (8.6%), pharmacy costs (8%) and physician care (4.4%). And that health-care overhaul law? It isn't yet significantly driving or curbing costs, the Milliman report says (Hobson, 5/13).
The Hill: HHS Approves 200 More New Healthcare Reform Waivers
The Obama administration approved 204 new waivers to Democrats' healthcare reform law over the past month, bringing the total to 1,372. The waivers are temporary and only apply to one provision of the law, which requires health plans to offer at least $750,000 worth of annual medical benefits before leaving patients to fend for themselves. Still, Republicans have assailed the waivers as a sign of both favoritism and of major problems with the law (Pecquet, 5/13). This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.