The COVID-19 Pandemic – Insurer Insights Into Challenges, Implications, and Lessons Learned

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has placed enormous pressure on virtually all facets of U.S. society, including the economy, family livelihoods, the health of millions of people, and the health care system. Much attention has appropriately been placed on the efforts of health care providers to deliver care to those infected with COVID-19. However, less is known about the experiences of the health insurers who reimburse those health care providers for the care they deliver. Those insurers also have relevant insights into what the pandemic might mean for public and private insurance coverage, insurance premiums, and benefits going forward.

In a new report supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, insurance experts at Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms (CHIR) and the Urban Institute share findings from interviews with executives at 25 health insurance companies conducted between April and June 2020. The companies included for-profit insurers operating nationally or across multiple states; nonprofits operating regionally or locally and at least one local insurer in each of the following states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Virginia, and Washington. Their impressions of the ongoing ramifications of the pandemic and their response to the crisis are summarized here:

  • Insurers appear well-positioned financially to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, at least for now.
  • While insurers expect the economic downturn to have a significant impact on their employer business, to date, most insurers report that their employer block of business remains surprisingly stable. Still, there are concerns that small employers, in particular, will begin to drop coverage in the coming months.
  • Medicaid enrollment is on the rise, but expected significant increases in individual market enrollment have yet to materialize.
  • Most insurers are concerned that the financial impact of COVID-19 on some medical practices will lead to further consolidation among providers.
  • Though insurers face a significant degree of uncertainty, they believe the crisis will have less of an impact on 2021 premiums than initially feared.
  • Most insurers feel that the COVID-19 crisis has not prompted a need to change benefit designs to any great degree, though they believe telehealth benefits are here to stay.
  • Insurers acknowledge that further changes to the health care system are needed to address health disparities, especially racial and ethnic disparities.

To learn more, download the full report here.

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