San Diego Union-Tribune Series Considers Health Insurance Cost Increases
The San Diego Union-Tribune this week examined rising health insurance costs in a three-part series that began on Sunday. Summaries are provided below.
- "Insurance Ills Put Squeeze on Consumers": The Union-Tribune looked at insurers' roles in the health care cost increases. Health care costs have risen in the past 15 years partly because of rising administrative costs in the health care industry and technological innovations that have increased costs for hospital, physician and clinical services and prescription drugs. However, "as consumers pick up more of the cost of care through higher copayments and deductibles, insurers are earning record profits," the Union-Tribune reports. Last year, net income for the nation's health care insurers was $10.2 billion -- about two times the profits earned in 2002 and nearly 14 times the amount they earned five years ago, according to Weiss Ratings. Donna O'Rourke, an analyst for the ratings firm, said a series of premium increases and efforts to reconfigure health plans to shift more service costs to consumers have contributed to insurers' recent profit increases (Berestein, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/22).
- "Insurance Benefits Are in Critical Shape": The Union-Tribune examined how employers have been passing more of the costs to employees or purchasing plans with reduced benefits because of higher health insurance costs. Some employers have increased workers' monthly premium contributions, capped benefits or purchased plans with tiered drug benefits and higher deductibles and copays. Despite employers' efforts, the amount they are "paying for watered-down coverage today is frequently the same or more than they paid a few years ago for better benefits," the Union-Tribune reports (Berestein, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/23).
- "Shrinking Coverage Stings Those on Individual Plans": The Union-Tribune considered the effect of rising premiums on people who purchase health insurance individually. As premiums for some individual health plans have doubled, some people who have such coverage have downgraded to lower-cost health plans with minimal coverage and deductibles of as much as $5,000. Others are "stuck with their high rates" because they have health problems that could make them ineligible for coverage under other plans, according to the Union-Tribune. Some individually insured have also gone to work for employers who offer health benefits, and others have let their policies lapse and are "hoping they don't get sick," the Union-Tribune reports (Berestein, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/24).