Cost Concerns Drive Healthcare Conversation

Jul 16, 2015


With the Supreme Court reaffirming the Affordable Care Act, questions about its future linger. One big issue  not addressed is the rising cost.

Jason Altmire is the senior vice president of Florida Blue. He says Florida has one of the most competitive health insurance markets, and says it’s this competition that helps drive prices.

“So I think the competition that exists in the bidding process results in the best price and the best product for the consumer," he says.

Despite the competition, rate increases have been a growing public concern.  They’re also worrisome to John Howard. He’s an associate with Rogers, Gunter Vaughn Insurance in Tallahassee.

“I delivered, yesterday, five different increases, or five different group plan renewals yesterday and all three were double digit increases following the previous year’s double digit increases," he says. "It’s a real struggle for the employer today to be able to figure out how to pay the additional cost, plus salary increases, and so forth without passing on too much to the employee.”

This leads some to wonder if health insurers are over-charging customers. But CEO of Florida Health Choices, Rose Naff, says there isn’t a reason for insurance companies to over-charge—at least under the Affordable Care Act.

“If they don't spend a very high percentage, I think it’s 85 percent on some products, directly on healthcare services, that only leaves 15 percent for administration and networks and websites and marketing and all the operations paying the claims," Naff says.

And she says insurance regulators must approve any increases.

The idea of the ACA is if all people are insured, costs will drop. But Blue Cross’ Altmire says there will always be people without health insurance.

“They still get sick, they still get injured, and they show up at the emergency room and they get treated. And somebody pays for it. They’re not going to pay for it. But somebody pays. And that somebody is the people who have health insurance today—it’s the employers," Altmire says. "And when you hear about the cost increases part of that increase is driven by the unintended consequence of the uncompensated care for people who don’t have insurance today.”

Experts made their comments on WFSU’s Public Affairs Program Perspectives.

*Correction: The statement, "but in Florida, that rate-hike approval has been left to the federal government," was based on a provision that expired in March of this year. The state of Florida has resumed rate reviews for health insurers.