When insurers start selling health insurance policies, they’re making history
Insurers say they’re selling more than 200 million health insurance plans in the United States, more than the entire global insurance market.
But as they’re expanding, insurers say they need to be more transparent about the prices and benefits that their plans cover, as well as how they’re paying for them.
A new study published in the journal Health Affairs found that as of December 2017, insurers had sold about 20 million individual health insurance contracts, or about $1.8 billion worth of health insurance products.
But they were only selling about 1.5 million individual policies, or $2.5 billion worth, in the broader marketplace.
So what exactly are the health insurance companies charging for those individual health policies?
Insurance companies have to include a number of charges in their plans, including deductibles, copays, coinsurance and other out-of-pocket costs.
They also have to provide other details on what kinds of services they cover.
Some insurers, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, say they are charging about 10 percent more for individual policies than they were charging for their individual market products last year.
But others say they’ve been selling fewer individual policies this year than they did last year, because they’re taking a smaller share of their marketplace customers.
“This is the first time we’ve ever sold more individual health plans than we did in the individual market,” said Jonathan Eisen, chief executive of the insurance broker Aon Hewitt, in an interview with Al Jazeera.
“So that’s a very positive sign.”
Eisen said his company is seeing a rise in demand for individual plans from small businesses and individuals.
In 2017, the average employer-sponsored health plan cost an employer $10,000 per employee, compared to $2,300 for a small business.
Eisen noted that the health plans sold by the large health insurers are more expensive than the smaller, more profitable plans sold to individuals.
“I think the small business market has really been really strong,” he said.
“A lot of the growth in the marketplace is coming from smaller businesses, but it’s also coming from small-business people, so that’s why I think this is really good news for the marketplace.”
He added that the premiums and copays the small companies are charging are lower than the larger insurance companies.
“They’re actually less,” Eisen said.
In addition to higher premiums, insurers are selling fewer plans in individual plans because of the health care law, and because many employers and small businesses have been unable to afford the cost of covering more employees, insurers have started to offer lower-cost policies.
In 2018, for example, the cost for a single policy sold in the Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Blue Shield of New York (BCBSNY) in New York City was $8,836.50 per month, down about 3 percent from the previous year.
In the individual plan sold in Blue Cross of California, the deductible for a Blue Cross plan was reduced to $1,200 from $3,400, and the out- of-pocket maximum was reduced from $7,600 to $5,100.
In 2017, a Blue Shield plan in New Jersey cost $11,200 per month.
In New York, Blue Cross was selling the cheapest individual plan in the state for the year, which was $7.30 per month for a family of four.
That plan was sold in a single-level, three-bedroom home with a monthly deductible of $4,000.
For a single person, the Blue Shield premium in 2018 was $4.83 per month on average, according to the insurer.
For individuals, the premium in 2017 was $6.33 per month and the deductible was $1 and the annual limit was $12,500.
For Blue Cross and Blue Cross members, the monthly premium was $539.10 and the premium for Blue Cross in New England was $2 a month.
For members in the states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, the premiums were $1 per month each.
Eisens said he believes the number of individual plans that insurers are offering is growing because of a number the companies are releasing about their health care costs.
“The health care sector is not as healthy as it used to be,” he explained.
“And as a result, insurance companies have begun to say, ‘Well, let’s not just offer individual health, let the people decide.'”