KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Customers’ Laser-Like Focus On Plan Prices Is Causing Concerns In Health Insurance Market

The continuing rise of premiums is causing some experts to worry that more people will refuse to buy insurance and that could lead to a collapse of the market. Meanwhile, insurers are using a mechanism created by the federal health law to help keep prices down to instead justify their premium increases.

The New York Times: Cost, Not Choice, Is Top Concern Of Health Insurance Customers
It is all about the price. Millions of people buying insurance in the marketplaces created by the federal health care law have one feature in mind. It is not finding a favorite doctor, or even a trusted company. It is how much — or, more precisely, how little — they can pay in premiums each month. ... The unexpected laser focus on price has contributed to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses among the country’s top insurers, as fewer healthy people than expected have signed up. And that has created two vexing questions: Will the major insurance companies stay in the marketplaces? And if they do, will the public have a wide array of plans to choose from — a central tenet of the 2010 Affordable Care Act? (Abelson, 8/12)

The New York Times: Health Insurers Use Process Intended To Curb Rate Increases To Justify Them
After the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010, it created a review mechanism intended to prevent exorbitant increases in health insurance rates by shaming companies that sought them. But this summer, insurers are turning that process on its head, using it to highlight the reasons they are losing money under the health care law and their case for raising premiums in 2017. (Pear, 8/14)

And in insurance news from the states —

The Tennessean: Cigna, Humana File For Higher Obamacare Premiums
Cigna and Humana each filed revised, and higher, requests for premiums on the 2017 Obamacare exchange after the state's insurance regulator granted them the chance to revisit earlier requests in a bid to keep the insurers in the market. In its latest filing, Cigna is proposing an average 46 percent increase — double its first 23 percent increase request. (Fletcher, 8/12)

San Francisco Business Times: Blue Shield Of California Will Take A Week Off In September Due To Obamacare Losses 
Blue Shield of California is shutting down for the four days after Labor Day to reduce its payroll-related liabilities, citing losses in California's Covered California Obamacare exchange. The move will affect most of its 6,000 employees in California, except about 1,000 who work for Care1st, which it acquired last fall for $1.2 billion, and some staffers in customer service and related areas who will remain on the job. The exact number of workers involved hasn't yet been tabulated, according to the San Francisco-based insurer. (Rauber, 8/11)

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