A NEW STUDY predicts that employer health care costs will be stable or could fall this year because medical care for people not infected with COVID-19 has actually declined precipitously during the pandemic, all of which would bode well for insurance rates.
Part of the reason for this is that people who have had mild heart attacks or strokes or other ailments have not gone to hospital for treatment out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Also, the number of elective surgeries has plummeted. In other words, deferred medical care is pushing down overall medical expenses.
Several factors at play
There are other factors at play besides deferred medical care.
Because people are also social distancing to protect against contracting COVID-19, they are not contracting other communicable diseases like the cold and flu.
Also, because of shelter-at-home orders, people are not being injured as often in vehicle crashes and while playing sports. Violent crime has also plummeted, meaning fewer people are coming to the emergency room with serious or life-threatening injuries.
The study by Willis Towers Watson notes that infection levels vary greatly from city to city and region to region. Less densely populated areas are faring better than large cities. It estimates overall health care costs this year based on various infection rates and deferred care:
EFFECT ON INSURANCE RATES
WTW noted that ultimately the financial impact on group health care plans will depend on how much the virus spreads and how severe the illness is in those people who are hospitalized.
Another survey by ehealth.com of health insurance CEOs found that COVID-19 will have little effect on 2021 coverage or premiums.
In fact, 83% of insurers polled said they did not anticipate raising rates in 2021 as a result of the crisis. The rest predicted a slight rate increase, but none predicted rate increases of more than 5%. v
- 32 insurers said they are waiving deductibles and other out-of-pocket
costs for testing.
- 19 insurers are waiving out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment.
- 32 insurers’ enrollees are using telemedicine services more.
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