Health Plan Weekly

  • Pandemic’s Threat to Mental Health Requires Payer Outreach

    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cut a devastating path — medically, socially and economically — across the U.S., signs are emerging that the situation is beginning to take a heavy toll on people’s mental health.

    A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted March 25 to 30 found that 47% of people who were sheltering in place reported negative mental health effects resulting from worry or stress related to the coronavirus. Similarly, a survey released March 25 by the American Psychiatric Association found that 36% of Americans said the coronavirus is having a serious impact on their mental health.

  • News Briefs

     Covered California, the state’s individual insurance exchange, said 58,400 people had enrolled in plans during its COVID-19-related special enrollment window in the three weeks following March 20. Covered California is also working to expand Medicaid enrollment for the newly unemployed. The agency that oversees the exchange will send out 3.5 million inserts reminding people receiving unemployment insurance that they are eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. Read more at

     House Democrats on April 14 introduced a bill that would have the federal government pay the entire premium amount for anyone enrolled in COBRA due to a layoff. The Worker Health Coverage Protection Act would also cover the entire premium amount for those furloughed by their employer, until they can return to work. “In the midst of a public health crisis, it is critical that workers and their families maintain access to affordable health care,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), one of the sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. Read more about the legislation at

  • COVID-19 Treatment, Testing Costs Could Reach $417 Billion Over Next Year

    With the novel coronavirus spreading across the nation, both private health insurers and public payers could see heavy economic costs. According to a recent paper prepared by Wakely Consulting Group on behalf of America’s Health Insurance Plans, under the baseline risk scenario with a U.S. infection rate of 20%, allowed costs could range from $112.5 billion to $185.4 billion over 2020 and 2021 combined. As the ultimate number and severity of COVID-19 cases remain unknown, the estimates have a wide range. Graphics below highlight three different organizations’ estimates for how the pandemic will change U.S. health care costs.
  • Biden Proposal to Lower Medicare Eligibility to 60 Could Benefit MA Insurers

    Former Vice President Joe Biden, the de facto Democratic nominee for president, said on April 9 that he will work to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 if elected. In a blog post laying out his plans to tackle COVID-19 and the resulting economic contraction, Biden positioned the Medicare proposal as part of his larger health care reform program, which would include a universal public insurance option.

    The proposal was light on details, but it suggested a 60-year-old enrollee would enjoy identical benefits as existing Medicare beneficiaries. “Under this concept, Americans would have access, if they choose, to Medicare when they turn 60, instead of when they turn 65. Medicare benefits would be provided to them as they are to current Medicare recipients,” Biden wrote in the post, which appeared on the online publishing platform Medium.

  • UnitedHealth Maintains Outlook, Braces for COVID-19 Impact

    UnitedHealth Group didn’t see much of an earnings impact from the COVID-19 pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, but the effects will crystallize in future quarters. Such was the overarching message of the company’s April 15 earnings release and conference call, which focused as much on how UnitedHealth has mobilized to respond to the pandemic as it did on the firm’s financial performance.

    “While it feels awkward to be talking about earnings outlook at this moment,” UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann said during his prepared remarks, “we are maintaining our 2020 earnings per share outlook established at our investor conference,” which was $16.25 to $16.55 per share on an adjusted basis. Wichmann added that for UnitedHealth, the financial effects of the pandemic — which at press time had claimed more than 33,000 American lives — will become clearer in the months to come.

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