I spent Monday lecturing a bunch of health plans about their bad behavior and how that had to change or they’d eventually be put out of business. So how might that not play out? Here’s my best guess up at Spot-on. It’s called Health Plans Behaving Badly.
It’s not been too pretty a picture for America’s health insurers lately. Sure they’re still turning decent profits, but for the past two years their stocks have barely been matching the S&P 500 Index. What went wrong? Well, you can blame Wall Street. The Street is concerned with two things. Money now and money later.
Since 2001 the big health plans have managed to increase the percentage they keep of fast-growing health care premiums (which have been going up at 3 to 4 times the rate of inflation), a number known to stock analysts as the as the MLR. It used to be that for most big insurers roughly 82-87% of premiums went out the door to pay for actual doctors, hospitals, drugs et al. Now the MLR is generally below 80%, and in some cases below 75% meaning less money’s out the door and more is on the bottom line of the health plans.
But the health insurer party that’s been going on for most of this decade may be coming to an end. But perhaps being busted by the cops and being told to tidy the house might be the best thing that ever happened to the insurers. Let me explain.
Read the rest and come back here to comment as ever.