Last week, I reported on my informal survey of health insurance companies and their estimate for how much rates will rise on account of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).
Today, there are press reports quoting the CEO of Aetna with their estimate. The Aetna estimate is worse than mine.
Health insurance premiums may as much as double for some small businesses and individual buyers in the U.S. when the Affordable Care Act’s major provisions start in 2014, Aetna Inc. (AET)’s chief executive officer said.
While subsidies in the law will shield some people, other consumers who make too much for assistance are in for “premium rate shock,” Mark Bertolini, who runs the third-biggest U.S. health-insurance company, told analysts yesterday at a conference in New York. The prospect has spurred discussion of having Congress delay or phase in parts of the law, he said.
“We’ve shared it all with the people in Washington and I think it’s a big concern,” the CEO said. “We’re going to see some markets go up as much as as 100 percent.”
Bertolini’s prediction is at odds with Congressional Budget Office estimates that the law will have little effect on small and large-employer plans and the Obama administration’s projections that middle-class families will actually save money. The 2010 law is expected to extend health care to about 30 million people who otherwise couldn’t get insurance, paid for by new taxes and fees on companies and wealthier individuals.
Those taxes will make coverage more expensive for insurers, as will other provisions such as a ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions, Bertolini said. Premiums are likely to increase 25 percent to 50 percent on average in the small-group and individual markets, he said, citing projections by his Hartford, Connecticut-based company.
You might recall that I found baseline individual rates are likely to rise 30% to 40% with younger people’s rates doubling because of the change in age-rating to 3:1 that will drive substantial rate compression. I found small group rates increasing by about half this.
My sense is that rates in a few states that have already had significant market reforms and already have the most mandates––Massachusetts and New Jersey, for example––will see little change. But for the vast majority of states there will be rate shock.
I can also tell you that, so far, I have detected no serious effort on the part of Democrats to delay anything. Frankly, I think hard core supporters of the new health law and the administration are in denial about what is coming.
I expect more health insurers to be echoing the Aetna’s comments in coming weeks. There is a real concern in the industry they need to get out ahead of this telling people why rates are shooting up to counter the “shoot the messenger” attacks that will be sure to come.
And, while the administration is beginning to understand the disruptive effect of converting to 3:1 age bands, they have not been able to find a way to phase it in or cancel it––the statue is very clear that we have to go to 3:1 age rating on January 1, 2014.
Robert Laszewski has been a fixture in Washington health policy circles for the better part of three decades. He currently serves as the president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates of Alexandria, Virginia. You can read more of his thoughtful analysis of healthcare industry trends at The Health Policy and Marketplace Blog, where this post first appeared.