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Monday, April 16, 2012

State insurance report shows increases, some profits

CONCORD – Health insurance costs have been increasing for everyone – roughly 14 percent overall – but those who are self-insured took by far the biggest hit, according to a rate report issued recently by the state Insurance Commission.

Commissioner Roger Sevigny said the first of a planned yearly report, which focuses on health insurance premium rates and cost drivers, was prompted by a public hearing in October 2011.

Those who insure themselves saw a 39 percent jump in costs during 2009-10, the time frame analyzed for the report. People who are part of a large employer group plan sustained a comparatively small 6 percent increase, while those in small employer group plans faced a 15 percent increase.

The analysis considered claims costs, administrative loads, and health carrier profits.

Overall, Sevigny reported, a rapid increase in health care claims over several years, especially those for outpatient services, led to the higher premiums. Insurance carriers, he said, cited higher costs for outpatient surgery, outpatient laboratory and IV infusion therapy as being responsible for increased premiums. Also, he said, actual claims costs for 2010 were far lower than carriers expected based on the prior year’s costs.

Meanwhile, the report states, the average level of benefit coverage dropped 10 percent between 2009 and 2010. While insurance costs went up an average of 14 percent, it states, insurance carriers’ revenue increased just 2.6 percent because more buyers chose coverage packages with reduced benefit levels.

As for profits, New Hampshire carriers averaged 1.8 percent profit. Topping the field is Anthem, which covers almost half of New Hampshire’s insured residents. The state’s other three carriers lost money, according to the report.

Anthem’s 6.6 percent gain, the report states, is more than twice the national average of 3.1 percent.

Sevigny said the commission intends to explore in future reports additional fundamental and underlying factors that drive insurance costs and benefits. Those include new medical technology and other systemic developments that figure into the equation. How commercial rates may be affected by lower payments to health care providers from Medicare, Medicaid and the uninsured will also be looked at, he said.

The entire report can be viewed at