WellPoint, Obama administration battle over cost of health reform to employers

At this point in the health reform debate, you have to take numbers from any side with a grain of salt. That said, Indianapolis-based
WellPoint Inc. has done perhaps the only local analysis of how proposed reforms would affect the cost of health insurance
for employers.

Its conclusion? Reform would generally reduce premiums
for Indianapolis companies with workers in poor health but raise them for Indianapolis companies with
workers in good or average health.

An eight-person firm in Indianapolis
with unhealthy workers would enjoy a 23-percent premium cut under health care reform. But WellPoint figures
a firm the same size with workers in average health would suffer a 20-percent increase. And an eight-person
firm with healthy employees could see its premiums shoot up nearly 94 percent.

The increases do not include any rise in medical costs, which have been going up about 6 percent each year. They do, however,
factor in federal subsidies to help uninsured Hoosiers buy health coverage, as well as savings that would come for some because
WellPoint could no longer charge more based on health status and gender—and would be restricted in how much it could
charge to older customers.

President Obama’s administration immediately
criticized WellPoint for failing to give enough credit to the cost-saving measures of health care reform.
The administration also countered with its own report, stressing that nearly 77,000 companies in Indiana
would be eligible for premium tax credits to reduce their burden.

The
White House report also emphasized that small employers would have access to low-cost plans in the health insurance exchange,
which could save their employees as much as 28 percent on premiums compared with average family policy premiums today.

And it added that, by insuring more people, health reform would reduce
the “hidden tax” that comes from shifting the costs of caring for the uninsured on to those
who are insured.

“Health insurance reform will lower premiums
for small businesses,” it asserted.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.