Premium Still Rising for Health Insurers

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Sep. 2, 2013 12:00 am  

Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield had $1.23 billion in premium in 2012, which was the most in the state. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

2012 was a good year for nearly all the companies on this year’s list of the largest health insurance companies.

Get the List: Click here to download the list of the largest health insurance companies in the state.

Eight of the top nine carriers on the list, which is ranked by premium written in Arkansas, saw their premium rise in 2012 over 2011 numbers.

The biggest jump in premium came from United HealthCare of Arkansas Inc., which reported $608.46 million in premium in 2012, up 49 percent from 2011, based on information filed with the Arkansas Insurance Department.

Despite the increase in Arkansas premium, United remained in the No. 2 spot on this year’s list.

The biggest reason for the increase was the 2012 acquisition by United HealthCare of Minnetonka, Minn., of XLHealth Corp., which serves Medicare Advantage members under its Care Improvement Plus subsidiaries. Care Improvement Plus’ premium is now included in United HealthCare of Arkansas’ premium number. In 2011, Care Improvement generated $201.8 million in premium in the state, which was good enough for No. 5 on the list.

Care Improvement’s move off the list this year made room for WellCare Health Insurance of Illinois, which had premium of $13.9 million in 2012 and landed in the No. 10 position.

Still holding the No. 1 spot is Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield. It reported $1.23 billion in premium in 2012, which includes $223.7 million for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. ABCBS’s premium was up 2.6 percent in 2012 from the previous year.

ABCBS spokeswoman Max Greenwood said ABCBS’ slight increase in membership in 2012 was one of the reasons that premium rose.

ABCBS could have more members in 2014. It is one of four companies that said it will sell insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace, where open enrollment begins Oct. 1. (See cover story here.)

The other companies that will offer insurance are National Blue Cross Blue Shield Multi-state Plan; QCA Health Plan of Little Rock, which does business as QualChoice of Arkansas Inc.; and Celtic Insurance Co. of Chicago, through its subsidiary NovaSys Health.

Dip in Premium

QualChoice was the only carrier on the list that reported a decline in premium last year. Premium fell 3.2 percent 2012 to $148.9 million.

QualChoice President and CEO Michael Stock said QualChoice lost some business in 2012. “Pricing in the marketplace is very competitive right now,” he said.

He said QualChoice has more individuals covered now than a year ago, but there are fewer lives covered in the group plans.

“We’re seeing some smaller employers who are dropping coverage,” Stock said.

He said that to boost premium, QualChoice began offering dental, vision and short-term gap health insurance on July 1.

Stock said it’s unclear how many people will buy QualChoice’s insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

“I would say that revenue is going to go up because there’s going to be new members that we don’t have today,” Stock said.

But he said he’s concerned because the penalties for not having insurance are “unanimously across the board” going to be less than the cost of insurance. People who don’t have insurance might face a penalty that starts at $95 next year and climbs to $695 in 2016.

Stock said he thinks that someone who is healthy might opt just to pay the penalty rather than buy insurance.

“Somebody who is sick and really needs it, … potentially they’re going to buy it,” he said.

The prices of polices in the marketplace are expected to be released this week.



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