HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care industry data and intelligence, reports that health premium increases are slowing down even in the TriState area. According to the latest issue of TriState Health Plan Analysis, New York and New Jersey's healthcare premium increases last year were in the single digits, down from double-digit increases from 2002 to 2004.
"Analysis of nationwide trends can only get you so far in understanding a region's healthcare market," said Chris Lewis, HealthLeaders-InterStudy analyst. "The strength of local provider networks and the supply of hospitals and physicians can strongly affect pricing. For example, Connecticut is dominated by large physician groups, making it a more difficult negotiating environment for health plans."
Several forces are behind the moderation in premium increases, according to HealthLeaders-InterStudy analysts. Past rates of premium increases in the TriState area have been higher than national average, allowing premiums to catch up to expenses, giving health plans some breathing space. Contractual relationships with providers are resulting in better utilization and unit-cost performance. And new consumer-driven healthcare products have exposed consumers to greater cost consequences.
Cost-pressured employers, however, will continue to shift costs to employees, by adding hospital co-pays, increasing deductibles, and increasing co-insurance. New York, in particular, tends to lag some parts of the nation in adopting new cost-sharing protocols, so area employees can expect to see more financial pressure put on them in the future.
Other health plan news in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut: * CIGNA and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield plan to offer Web-enabled virtual doctor visits as a covered benefit * Connecticut-based Health Net of the Northeast has moved into the black after a period of losses About Health Plan Analysis
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