The Reality of Health Care Cost

Brian Klepper

BK 711This beautifully written letter was forwarded after an interview with me on health care cost appeared in a Florida newspaper.

Many of us with coverage often think in abstract terms about working families that do not have access to employer-sponsored coverage, and that must shoulder the overwhelming burden of costs on their own. As Mrs. Doss describes, health care costs dominate her family’s economic life and drive many of their most important decisions.

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Average Annual Health Costs for a US Family of Four Approach $20,000, With Employees Bearing 40%

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

First published 5/11/11 on Health Populi

Health care costs have doubled in less than nine years for the typical American family of four covered by a preferred provider health plan (PPO). In 2011, that health cost is nearly $20,000; in 2002, it was $9,235, as measured by the 2011 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). To put this in context,

  • The 2011 poverty level for a family of 4 in the 48 contiguous U.S. states is $22,350
  • The car buyer could purchase a Mini-Cooper with $20,000
  • The investor could invest $20K to yield $265,353 at a 9% return-on-investment.

Continue reading “Average Annual Health Costs for a US Family of Four Approach $20,000, With Employees Bearing 40%”

For the NAIC, A Consequential Decision on the MLR

Stephen Finan, Barbara Rea, Kimberly Calder, Timothy Jost, Bonnie Burns, Lynn Quincy and Elizabeth Abbott.

First published 5/09/11 on Kaiser Health News

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is considering whether to endorse legislation that would remove broker and agent commissions from the medical loss ratio, a calculation that could give consumers valuable insights about the proportion of their premiums spent on health care costs compared with administrative expenses and salaries. Removal would have far-reaching implications for the reliability of the MLR as a measure of a health plan’s value, for the broader goal of improving quality and controlling costs, and for the NAIC itself.

Last year, the NAIC recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services adhere to the law’s requirement that brokers’ and agents’ fees be included in the MLR. That position resulted from a thorough process that included input from interested groups representing consumers, insurers, brokers and agents, and others. The recommendation represented an equitable balancing of numerous perspectives, and HHS adopted it virtually unaltered.

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Medical Loss Ratios – Again

Roger Collier

First published 4/4/11 on Health Reform Update

A new study, reported in the American Journal of Managed Care, seems likely to add more heat to the continuing medical loss ratio controversy.

The Accountable Care Act effectively mandates that health insurers achieve MLRs of 85 percent for large group business and 80 percent for small group and individual business, with insurers not meeting these thresholds required to make rebates to affected policyholders. However, the ACA allows HHS to issue a waiver if the requirement would disrupt a state’s insurance market. So far, an individual coverage waiver has been granted to the State of Maine, with eight other states’ waiver requests being considered.

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Maine Waiver Expected To Increase Insurer Pressures on States

Roger Collier

First Published 3/14/11 on Health Care Reform Update

HHS’s bellwether decision of last week to grant the State of Maine a three-year waiver from the medical loss ratio provision of the ACA may lead to new efforts by insurers across the country to persuade states to demand similar waivers.

The HHS decision on Maine was not unexpected. The ACA language clearly allows for waivers when imposition of the MLR 80/85 percent threshold penalties would lead to disruption of a state’s insurance market. Maine, a state with very few major employers, has a higher than average percentage of small group and individual policies which typically provide higher out-of-pocket costs—and consequently higher administrative percentages. HealthMarkets, one of the two dominant insurers in Maine, had threatened to abandon the state’s individual market unless a waiver was granted. (According to a Bloomberg report, HealthMarkets, which is majority-owned by two large investor funds, was recently sued by the City of Los Angeles for selling policies with provisions that allegedly effectively eliminated needed coverage.)

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Insurance Reform Is Not Cost Control

AUSTIN FRAKT

First published 2/09/11 on Kaiser Health News

Now that House Republicans, along with a few Democrats, have passed a bill to repeal last year’s health reform law, they are planning to offer some alternatives for replacing it. Not unexpectedly, health care spending — high and growing premiums and government expenditures — are dominant concerns among policymakers. But how can we tell if their plans are likely to tackle this problem?

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