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Health Costs Are Still Tame, Insurer Results Show

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Not at Cigna. “Our expectations are unequivocally to grow our customer base further in 2014,” Cordani said Thursday. Not at UnitedHealth Group. “We remain committed to Medicare Advantage as the most valuable and fastest-growing Medicare benefit offering available to American seniors,” said CEO Stephen Hemsley. Not at Humana. “We continue to anticipate growth in individual Medicare Advantage membership in 2014,” said CEO Bruce Broussard.

– Aetna’s Bertolini suggested he’s not prepared to accept Maryland’s final premium rates for Obamacare exchange plans as really final. Last week, Maryland regulators sharply cut proposed premiums for plans to be sold through the subsidized online marketplaces known as exchanges. Average premiums for Aetna’s plans were cut 29 percent. Asked by a stock analyst whether the company would sell insurance at those prices, Bertolini implied that the negotiations aren’t over.

“We generally do not negotiate our rates with states in the [news]paper,” he said, declining to get into specifics. “So I would argue that the current information that’s in the public domain is in mid-process. We have not committed to the rates, nor will we see ourselves committing to those rates anytime at this point.”

– Humana portrayed its expansion in Mississippi as a potential profit opportunity, or at least one that won’t lose money. After pressure from Mississippi officials and presumably Washington, Humana agreed last month to sell subsidized health plans in dozens of poor, rural Mississippi counties that otherwise might not have had any offerings sold directly to individuals and families through online exchanges.

But since Humana won’t have any competitors in those places, Broussard suggested, it can set rates relatively high. (Even at higher rates, tax credits limit what consumers will pay, depending on their income. Federal taxpayers make up the difference.)

“Well, first thing is considering the population there, it was the right thing to do, I think, for us to go into that marketplace and to offer the insurance on the exchange side,” Broussard said. “In regards to how we approach it, it is a market that, since there will be only us in that marketplace, it does offer the ability to have a fairly reasonable rate there.”

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Thu, Aug 01 2013

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