Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Insured Older, Sicker Than Hoped

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Insured Older, Sicker Than Hoped

Article excerpt

People who signed up through the exchange tended to be older and sicker, but Kansas insurers plan to stick it out for at least one more year.

Representatives from insurance companies, hospitals and other groups connected with health care reform spoke at a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon at Kansas Health Institute. All agreed the law's implementation still has some problems, though their levels of optimism about progress toward solving them varied considerably.

Matt All, senior vice president and general counsel at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, said he wasn't speaking about their specific risk pool, but insurers as a whole have found people who signed up through the exchange in 2014 were older than some hoped and filed more expensive claims than the average pool of customers. He said it isn't yet clear whether those claims will represent pent- up demand that will fall as they have access to more regular care.

Kevin Curry, director of sales at Coventry, said they had a similar experience with the pool of new customers through the exchange in 2014. It is too early to know for certain, but younger and healthier people who weren't as motivated to sign up the first year may have decided to do so in 2015, he said. Coventry and Blue Cross are the two companies selling on the exchange in Kansas.

Insurers also are having to educate people who haven't had insurance for some time about their options, Curry said. Sometimes, that is as basic as talking to them about alternatives to the emergency room, he said.

"We really need to educate people about their benefits," he said.

The two existing insurers must submit their plans and proposed rates for 2016 by May 1, when they have only a few months of claims from their newest customers. All said Blue Cross still is working on its proposed rates and plans, but will try to avoid major changes. …

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