More People Going To Hospitals Now That They Have Insurance
Insurance companies also see higher expenses; analyst says premium increase possible, but not immediately
Aug. 05, 2014
Hospitals are making more money off people who recently signed up for health insurance under Obamacare, but one analyst says insurance companies might be losing money at the same time.
An analysis from the Wall Street Journal shows that many hospitals are seeing more patients now than at the same time a year ago after more than eight million Americans signed up for insurance through a health exchange and millions more enrolled in Medicaid programs. "A lot of people started with new coverage in January that already are using services which you thought the (high) deductible would have held them off a little longer," said Kosali Simon, health policy analyst and professor at IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "But evidently, these are people who knew they needed health care and may have delayed it until they received insurance."
At the same time, the Journal's analysis says insurance companies are seeing unexpected expenses from these same patients, mainly because they are going to hospitals for services rather than urgent care or other doctor's offices. "You might have thought that if people have insurance that if people have insurance, they will get so much better preventive care and ambulatory care that they would stay out of the hospital. But having insurance has reduced the consumer's price of hospital care dramatically," Simon said, shifting that cost to insurers. Despite efforts to shift those who just want to see a doctor for an ordinary illness to clinics or urgent care, many emergency rooms have seen an increase in patients this year.
While this could cause insurance companies to raise rates, Simon says that will not happen immediately. "We don't think it will all play out by the next open enrollment in the fall, because those prices have to be submitted before the claims information from the first year are known." Simon also says the number of patients could trail off after the initial jump and that it will take several months to get a true reading on the effect of the health law.