KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

So Far, Health Law Not Hurting Insurer Stock Prices

Health insurance stocks don't seem to be hurt by implementation of the health law. In fact, share prices for the top five publicly traded firms have risen faster than the larger market. Elsewhere, The New York Times examines options for buying insurance outside the federal or state marketplaces, and some coverage is getting pricier.

The New York Times: Insurers' Stocks, Unhurt By The Dawn Of The Health Care Law
Yet from the financial perspective of the health care industry, Obamacare, as the law is often known, doesn't seem much of a hindrance. In fact, it may even turn out to be positive. Consider the situation of health insurance providers. Because they face new regulations intended to broaden coverage and limit profit-taking, some analysts have been concerned that profits will suffer. But in the run-up to the Affordable Care Act, stock market prices have told a different story. Over the last 12 months, shares of the top five publicly traded health insurance companies -- Aetna, WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Cigna -- have increased by an average of 32 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has risen by just 24 percent (Bernasek, 10/26).

The New York Times: Health Insurance Options Aren't Limited To Government Exchanges
Of course, the main attraction of the exchange is that plans sold there may come with subsidies that can substantially lower your monthly premiums. (Premium credits are for people making up to $46,000 for an individual and up to $94,000 for a family of four.) Web-based brokers, like eHealth, are supposed to be able to help consumers enroll in subsidy-eligible plans by connecting to the federal marketplace to verify the consumer's income, under government guidelines issued last spring. But that isn't happening yet at eHealth, in part because the company is still testing its system, said a spokesman, Nate Purpura (Carrns, 10/25).

Los Angeles Times: Some Health Insurance Gets Pricier As Obamacare Rolls Out 
Thousands of Californians are discovering what Obamacare will cost them -- and many don't like what they see. These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the health care market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years. Although recent criticism of the health care law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama's signature legislation (Terhune, 10/27).

Earlier, related KHN coverage: Thousands Of Consumers Get Insurance Cancellation Notices Due To Health Law Changes (Gorman and Appleby, 10/21).  

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.