Thursday, October 29, 2009

On average, how much do workers pay for health insurance coverage?

For weeks, the Associated Press has been running a series of thumbnail sketches detailing different aspects of the health insurance reform debate going on in Congress.

Today's, published locally in the Seattle Times, answers one of the most frequent questions we get at the Washington state insurance commissioner's office: On average, how much do people pay for health coverage?

For the answer, the AP turned to the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2009 survey, which found that employer-provided coverage for one worker costs an average of $4,824 a year, with the worker paying an average of $779.

To cover a family, the cost is $13,375, with the worker paying $3,515.

But click on both links -- there's more data there about what those costs might look like in a few years, and some discussion about the potential effect of federal reform.

Insurance news: Health insurance gift cards at the supermarket, "cowboys" underpricing coverage, and Aetna's financials...

The health insurance reform news today is dominated by House Democrats unveiling their legislation, including a public option. Here's the LA Times' take.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein takes up the interesting question: Will Any States Actually Opt Out of the Public Plan?

And the Miami Herald discovers a surprising development at the local Winn-Dixie: Gift cards to help pay for health insurance.

Here in rainy Washington state, insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler's calling for legislation to help a flood-threatened area south of Seattle get coverage. An insurers' group argues that the proposal "comes too soon and goes too far," acording to this article in Insurance Journal.

There's an interesting story on the Bloomberg wire: Zurich-based Ace Ltd. CEO Evan Greenberg says that insurers are underpricing their policies, "with `cowboys' setting unreasonable rates for coverage." The article quotes another executive as saying that rates may not increase until 2011 as insurers compete for business in a shrinking market. The story also comes on the heels of this report (which, yes, I blogged about yesterday) which talks about the possibility of a long-term reduction in insurers' investment returns. (See page 57.)

At Aetna, meanwhile, 3Q profit grew 18 percent, with executives saying in an AP story that they "finally have a handle on rising medical costs" that hurt profits earlier.

Insurance news: New report about climate and challenges for insurers

A new report from the Insurance Information Institute talks about the nation's financial crisis and how it's hit insurers. It includes an excellent overview of the recession compared to how far/quick the nation's bounced back from previous downturns.

Among the points in the 110-page report: that state and local government finances are in dire straits, with "large, long-term cuts necessary to align spending with shrinking tax revenues." And study author Robert Hartwig says the issues and threats facing insurers include larger-than-usual recent losses, long-term reductions in investment earnings, and the threat of inflation eating further into those earnings.

(Here's a PowerPoint link to the same presentation.)