One of Missouri’s largest health insurers is warning that premiums could rise dramatically if the health care reform legislation being considered on Capitol Hill in Washington actually gets forwarded to President Barack Obama and is signed into law. Wellpoint, the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Missouri, has completed a study which finds those premium increases could affect both businesses and individual purchasers.
Brad Fluegel, Wellpoint’s Executive Vice President – Chief Strategy and External Affairs Officer, says a common component of the various bills being considered in the Nation’s Capital would require insurers to provide coverage to anyone wanting to purchase insurance, without any requirement that an individual be mandated to purchase a policy prior to a need for coverage. This, he says, would lead to a situation in which a young and healthy individual might reject purchasing insurance until such time as that person learns he or she is seriously ill and needs medical attention.
“If you want to provide coverage to everybody and guarantee that they’ll have availability to it without preexisting conditions or the like, you need to be sure that people are going to buy that coverage and maintain that coverage over time,” said Fluegel in an interview with the Missourinet. “Not having that kind of strong requirement means that many people would make the perfectly rational decision to forego coverage until such time as they needed it.”
Fluegel says purchasing health insurance only when it is needed would be similar to buying an auto insurance policy only after a vehicle has been involved in an accident. This, he says, makes no sense as people who have been paying the premiums all along would have to subsidize those who only opt to buy when they need coverage.
“In Missouri, for example, individuals who tend to be younger and healthier and have the best rates available today could see their premiums increase 199-200 percent, and smaller employers that generally have younger and healthier individuals would see their premiums increase about 90 percent,” said Fluegel.
Another common thread in the current crop of bills is that discounts to healthier groups of individuals who take better care of themselves would be banned.
“In the current bills that are being discussed there would no longer be the ability to have any kind of discounts based on health of individuals,” said Fluegel.
Another source of higher costs for businesses and consumers would be an array of taxes being considered.
“There are substantial taxes that are being levied against various parts of the health industry – taxes on health insurers, taxes on pharmaceutical manufacturers, taxes on medical device manufacturers,” said Fluegel. “Ultimately those taxes would be passed on through to individuals and working families in the form of higher premiums.”
The big concern, though, is that those who purchase insurance without cashing in would – in effect – have to pay for those who only buy policies prior to expensive procedures. Fluegel says without a mandate that young and healthy people buy insurance the system could not survive without skyrocketing cost hikes.