The Health Insurers Have Already Won
As the health reform fight shifts this month from a vacationing Washington to congressional districts and local airwaves around the country, much more of the battle than most people realize is already over. The likely victors are insurance giants such as UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Aetna (AET), and WellPoint (WLP). The carriers have succeeded in redefining the terms of the reform debate to such a degree that no matter what specifics emerge in the voluminous bill Congress may send to President Obama this fall, the insurance industry will emerge more profitable. Health reform could come with a $1 trillion price tag over the next decade, and it may complicate matters for some large employers. But insurance CEOs ought to be smiling.
The article talks about how insurance lobbyists are shaping the legislation and feeding data to key members of Congress. It also has this to say:
A fundamental question about the health overhaul is what minimum standards will apply to the coverage all Americans will be required to have. UnitedHealth has been exchanging a high volume of information on the topic with members of the Senate Finance Committee and their staff. Stevens, the former British health aide, regularly scans PowerPoint presentations generated by the committee staff that attempt to calculate the actuarial value of proposed benefit packages. Senators stung by the projected $1 trillion price tag are winnowing down the required coverage levels to cut costs.
This is good news for UnitedHealth, which benefits when patients pick up more of the tab. In late spring, the Finance Committee was assuming a 76% reimbursement rate on average, meaning consumers would be responsible for paying the remaining 24% of their medical bills, in addition to their insurance premiums. Stevens and his UnitedHealth colleagues urged a more industry-friendly ratio. Subsequently the committee reduced the reimbursement figure to 65%, suggesting a 35% contribution by consumers—more in line with what the big insurer wants. The final figures are still being debated.
Edited by Palisade, 06 August 2009 - 09:30 PM.