Insurer News: 2010 Could Be Record Profit Year; Anthem Settles Underpayment Cases
A California health insurer will pay seven hospitals $1.62 million to settle a dispute over alleged underpayments, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Anthem, a unit of health insurance giant WellPoint Inc. of Indianapolis, admitted no wrongdoing and said in a statement that it settled the matter to avoid litigation. Regulators said the problem stemmed from Anthem's process for handling claims. The Woodland Hills-based insurer required hospitals to submit paperwork for daily rates to one mailing address, but claims for additional charges - known as stop-loss payments - went to another address, a violation of state law." Anthem is the state's largest for-profit insurer (Helfand, 11/16).
The Hill reports that 2010 is turning out to be a good year for insurers. "The six largest investor-owned health insurance companies saw a 22 percent increase in combined net income in the third quarter, putting them on pace to break profit records for 2010. According to S.E.C. figures compiled by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which lobbied Congress to pass March's healthcare overhaul, the top six insurers made a total of $3.4 billion in profits during Q3, or $611 million more than they did during the same period last year" (Viebeck, 11/16).
And NPR notes that more small companies "are offering medical insurance to their employees. In the past year, the number has increased by 15 percent. A Bernstein Research survey indicates the reason is the health care overhaul legislation. The law offers immediate tax breaks for small business owners" (Sepulvado, 11/17).
But employer-sponsored health coverage is dropping overall, The Hill separately reports. "The number of Americans who have employer-sponsored health care dropped last year for the ninth year in a row, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute. The report found that the share of Americans under 65 covered by employment-based health insurance fell from 61.9 percent in 2008 to 58.9 percent in 2009. The report also predicts that employer-sponsored coverage will continue to drop until the major coverage expansion of the health reform law kicks in in 2014" (Pecquet, 11/16).