It’s Easier to Beat Up the Insurers

Things are playing out just as one might predict in the Massachusetts small business and individual insurance market. The Insurance Commissioner turned down proposed rate increases, the state’s insurers appealed to the courts, and now they can’t write policies.

Meanwhile, policy-makers ignore the underlying causes of the problem:

Just a few weeks ago, the Attorney General issued a report, after months of study, that explained that insurance price increases in the state were the result of two factors, the underlying increase in health care costs and a disparity of reimbursement rates that paid some providers substantially more than other providers.

As noted by my colleague Ellen Zane, in remarks consistent with the findings of the AG, “The funneling of dollars disproportionately among hospital and provider groups serves to warp the overall system balance.”

Taking a page from the debate on national health care, local officials seem to have decided that it is easier to beat up on the unpopular insurance companies rather than address the root cause of the problems. Here, though, the insurers are non-profits. If they are forced to charge prices below those that are based on actuarial determinants, there are no shareholders to absorb the losses. The most direct result is a reduction in capital reserves, a key metric the Division of Insurance is statutorily charged to protect.

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