As the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up in the U.S. in early spring, actuaries and analysts raced to develop estimates of how the disease associated with this new coronavirus would impact health care costs. Now, with cases declining in some areas and rising in others — and crucially, much more data available — some of those estimates are changing.
One analysis that recently received an update is a Wakely Consulting Group report, which was prepared at the request of America’s Health Insurance Plans and originally released March 30. That report estimated that the direct impact of COVID-19 treatment costs — for commercial, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care insurers — would be in the range of $56 billion to $556 billion for 2020 and 2021 combined. Now, Wakely is estimating a range of $30 billion to $547 billion for those two years, with the former figure representing a low infection rate of 10% and the latter representing a high infection rate of 60%.
✦ The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration earned CMS approval for a policy that will allow members of its Medicaid expansion program, the Healthy Indiana Plan, to spend up to $1,000 of HIP benefits on commercial insurance fees. All HIP beneficiaries have a $2,500 annual “POWER” account that can be used similarly to a health savings account. However, POWER accounts are not portable, and until the new policy, HIP members who moved from HIP to a commercial plan gave up the balance of their POWER account. Going forward, transitioning HIP members will be able to use the POWER funds to pay commercial insurance premiums, deductibles, copays and other forms of cost sharing for up to 12 months after leaving HIP. Read more at https://bit.ly/3gTuJLR.
✦ Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) reaffirmed the five health plans that were initially selected to run the state’s Medicaid program. The selections were initially made by previous Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, but Beshear nullified the original contract awards. A total of 1.4 million Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries will be divided between CVS Health Corp.-owned Aetna, Humana Inc., Molina Healthcare, Inc., UnitedHealthcare and Centene Corp.’s WellCare Health Plans, Inc. Passport Health Plan, the second-largest MCO in the state and an incumbent contract-holder, was once again not chosen. Evolent Health, which bought a 70% stake in Passport when it was on the brink of insolvency, said it supports Passport’s plan to protest the decision. Read more at https://bit.ly/2ACCkxF.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, 12 out of 13 state-based marketplaces — all but Idaho’s marketplace — offered a new special enrollment period (SEP) for residents to sign up for coverage. According to the most recent data, more than 290,000 people across 11 states have enrolled in marketplace plans during pandemic-related SEPs and other SEPs.
Private exchange solutions for both early retiree and Medicare-eligible retiree health benefits are seeing a resurgence, driven by attractive pricing in the Medicare Advantage (MA) space and a more stable individual market, says a Willis Towers Watson analysis.
While still a very small slice of the employer health benefit space, these plans could see more uptake in 2021 as companies seek more predictable costs for their retirees, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, says John Barkett, senior director of policy affairs at Willis Towers Watson.
To some policy experts, the COVID-19 pandemic offers a chance to rethink the national debate over universal health coverage — potentially bolstering the case for a Medicare for All system or a public option that provides government-sponsored, less expensive health plans alongside private offerings.
“I submit that COVID is an opportunity for us to reframe our understanding of health care’s role, for us to connect back with an older vision of health as something that if not dealt with for some amongst us has devastating effects on the rest of us,” Daniel Wikler, a professor of ethics and population health at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said during a May 28 virtual panel discussion hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center and its O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law. “We certainly see that dramatically with infectious disease.”
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