As the nation’s hospitals strain to keep up with the demand to care for COVID-19 patients, it seems almost unfair to ask how much all of this treatment will cost. Still, we know that the costs will be high, both for the care itself and for what health insurers, employers and consumers will end up paying.
In a recent report, the health insurance marketplace Covered California projected that the one-year costs of testing and treatment related to COVID-19 could range from $34 billion to $251 billion. These new costs could cause health insurance premiums for individuals and employers to rise by 40% or more next year in the absence of federal action, the report said, adding that insurance premiums would increase because insurers would want to recoup any losses from the pandemic this year and plan for any future losses they might incur next year. Continue reading
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Over the past several years, health care journalists have done great work highlighting the problem of surprise medical bills. There’s been so much coverage that even the U.S. House of Representatives has begun examining the issue, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff reported on March 25.
Among the many surprise patient medical bills that Kliff and others have reported about come from air ambulance companies. Continue reading
One of the most complicated topics to cover in health care today is the role of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Employers and health plans hire these middlemen to manage their prescription benefit programs for workers and health plan members.
Not only do PBMs contract with health plans, but some large health plans, notably UnitedHealthcare which owns Optum, have their own PBMs. Late last year, CVS Health, one of the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chains and owns Caremark, a PBM, said it would buy Aetna, one of the country’s largest health insurers. That deal is pending regulatory review, as Bruce Japsen reported for Forbes early this month. Continue reading
Consumers in states with high health care costs spend more than twice as much for certain services than consumers in other states, according to a new report from the Health Care Cost Institute.
Using health insurance claims, HCCI researchers also showed that among Americans enrolled in commercial health insurance plans, consumer prices for health care services vary by threefold within states. Continue reading
Health care costs lack transparency and are wildly variable, not just from region to region but sometimes from block to block within the same city.
It is a complex topic, with chargemaster prices, what insurers paid and what consumers pay (if anything). Then there are the administrative rules set by Medicare and Medicaid and the negotiated rates between insurers and providers.
It’s daunting, but Lisa Aliferis of KQED, Rebecca Plevin of SCPR and Jeanne Pinderof clearhealthcosts.com have teamed up to offer guidance for reporting on health care costs in this new AHCJ tip sheet.