Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And they still want to raise rates

I live in Massachusetts. We are not that big a state with a population of just over 6.5 million. The largest health insurers have announced their third quarter earnings. They claim they had a good quarter because of 'seasonal improvements' and fewer health claims due to a sluggish economy.
That's a lot of hogwash to me. What are seasonal improvements? I mean I understand that there is less flu in the summer but people are active and they drive more, enjoy potentially dangerous outdoor sports, etc. And fewer claims because of a sluggish economy? People don't go to the doctor when the economy sucks? I can understand delaying your nose job until after you get a job but I'm not sure its covered by insurance anyway. But cancer diagnoses still happen. I do understand that people might be reluctant to go back to the doctor for a follow up and pay another co-pay when they are tight for money but people still get sick.

I like this quote from the article: "Blue Cross said it was pressing forward with its campaign for health care affordability, both by managing its own administrative expenses and by holding down reimbursement increases for doctors and hospitals." Hmmmm.... So BCBS is getting rich but hospitals and medical professionals are barely making ends meet. I like the idea that insurance companies are working on their own administrative expenses but dislike their reimbursement reductions. Insurance companies should not be making medical decisions.

Anyway, on to the numbers. Remember the state population of 6.5 million:

Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA - earnings of $78.9 million, up from $75.8 million last year
Fallon Community Health of Worcester - earnings of $12 million, up from $7.2 million last year
Tufts Health Plan didn't do as well as the rest - earnings of $52.6 million down from $59 million last year
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care also didn't do as well - earnings of $37.9 million down from $44.5 million last year

Total for third quarter earnings this year are $181.4 million, against last year's $186.5 million. So maybe they weren't quite as good as last year but they still made money. And they want to raise rates. I am not sure the exact numbers and think they are slightly lower than previous trends but they are still substantially higher than the cost of living increases most of us see in our paychecks.

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