How Will COVID19 Impact Employer Health Insurance in the US?

BY JIM PURCELL (3)

Covered California released the first national projection of how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect employer health insurance. The report predicts that employer premiums will rise in 2021 by 40 percent or more, absent federal action, which is certain to alarm many employers. 

As the former CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, I disagree with these ominous projections, and believe that in the wake of COVID-19, any rise in health premiums will be minimal, one-time events (which I explain below). 

Moreover, I believe it’s time for employers to consider a more important question: whether they should pass any future rate increases to employees, which for years has become a common practice with profound ramifications for both employee well-being and employers’ bottom lines. 

As a former healthcare CEO, I’ve taken part in the complexities of health insurance ratings for years. To better understand how the COVID-19 crisis might impact insurance premiums, I consulted with insurance actuaries about changes that may arise in the coming year.

Overall, I believe that COVID-19 will significantly increase claims expenses in line with Covered California’s projections, which will include higher ER intake and ICU overflows, and increased hospital staffing.  

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The Danish Model: Is It Time For the Kids to Go Back to School?

By NIRAN AL-AGBA, MD (3)

Two weeks ago, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington will likely reopen in stages. Halfway across the globe, Denmark has already begun a gradual process lifting its nation’s coronavirus lockdown by reopening schools for children in kindergarten up through the age of 11, in an effort to prioritize the education of its youngest students. 

Kåre Mølbak, from Denmark’s infectious diseases agency SSI, commented that the decision to gradually reopen was based on the confidence that citizens would continue upholding social distancing and hygiene recommendations.  Denmark also plans to reopen in phases, though it will focus next on the return of middle- and high-school students to school by May 10. Restaurants, bars and other businesses will remain closed until “the next phase.” The ban on large festivals and other events, thought to contribute significantly to the spread of disease, will remain in place until much later, reportedly through the summer. 

Washington will likely resume activity in the reverse order in which it shut down, however, Denmark might be on to something. Children not only get milder disease, but they also seem far less likely to contract COVID-19.  A study published in the journal Nature Medicine screened 745 children who had close contact with patients or family members with confirmed COVID-19 disease and found only 10 children in the entire group tested positive. Of the 10,000 confirmed cases in Washington state, just 3% have occurred in children under the age of 19. Children’s Hospital in Seattle reported in March that out of 660 children tested, only 4 children tested positive. In my office, though I have only sent about a dozen nasal swab tests, not a single child has tested positive either. 

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