Health insurance premiums could skyrocket: analysis

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Health insurance premiums could skyrocket because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to analysis released last week.

Premiums could jump as much as 40 percent next year if the coronavirus ends up hospitalizing millions of Americans, state insurance marketplace Covered California’s analysis warned

The analysis also found that Insurers, employers and individuals are expected to pay anywhere from $34 billion to $251 billion in additional costs for testing and treating COVID-19. A liberal estimation would boost the about $1.2 trillion costs per year by 20 percent or more, potentially leading to a 40 percent increase in premiums.

Covered California’s analysis applies to the commercial insurance market that represents coverage offered to 170 million workers and individuals through private health plans but not to Medicare and Medicaid. 

Peter V. Lee, the executive director of Covered California, which was created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), told The New York Times that the 2020 health plans were created without knowing the coronavirus crisis was coming. 

“No insurer, no state, planned and put money away for something of this significance,” Mr. Lee said.

Lee said the boost in costs could cause people to lose their coverage or “go without needed care.” 

He said the coronavirus stimulus packages would alleviate some of the burden from hospitals but may not change how much hospitals charge private insurers and employers for care.

In the meantime, insurers and employers are imploring Congress for a reinsurance program for the federal government to cover the most expensive medical claims to relieve them of some of the cost.

Some experts say giant for-profit insurers may have the ability to take on increases of 3 to 4 percent in medical costs after their profits in 2019, while jumps of 10 to 12 percent would be more difficult, according to the Times.

But other experts say if people do not seek other medical care, like routine check ups or non-emergency surgery, because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus, the cost of the epidemic could be mitigated, the Times reported. People sought less non-emergency medical care in 2008 after the recession.

The U.S. has counted more than 125,300 cases of coronavirus in the country with 2,351 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tags Coronavirus Covered California COVID-19 health insurance premiums health insurers

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