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Health numbers: S&P Dow Jones, UBA, Gallup

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The average cost of claims for a U.S. commercial health plan enrollee was 6.5 percent higher in October 2015 than in October 2014, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC.

The analysts who compile the health cost index reports say these are based on information about actual claim payments.

See also: Milliman: How PPACA World really worked in 2014

The analysts found that:

  • The average cost of medical services for a commercial plan enrollee increased 4.2 percent, on a year-over-year basis. Spending on generic drugs increased 7.4 percent, and spending on brand-name drugs jumped 19 percent.

  • The average cost per enrollee increased 4.6 percent in the small-group market, 3.9 percent in the large-group market, and 27 percent in the individual market.

  • Commercial plans were spending an average of $498 per month on individual enrollees in October, and $460 per month on group plan enrollees, according to the index data.

In other health insurance survey news:

United Benefit Advisors (UBA), a benefits firm consortium, has published a free executive summary of a report on its 2015 employer survey results. UBA received responses from 10,804 employers. The employers sponsor 10,186 health plans. 

The participants’ group health renewal rates increased by an average of 6.2 percent in 2015, up from an average of 5.6 percent in 2014, according to UBA. 

The participants’ average group plan costs ranged from $7,610 per employee per month in Hawaii up to $12,822 per employee per month in Alaska.

UBA also asked about the percentage of plans that are still “grandfathered,” or exempt from most Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requirements because they were in effect before March 23, 2010, and the percentage that are still “grandmothered.”

In some states, “grandmothering” lets some plans written after March 23, 2010 put off complying with many of the PPACA requirements that took effect for new plans on Jan. 1, 2014.

Only 7.8 percent of the plans included in the UBA survey were still grandfathered in 2015, down from 8.2 percent in 2014.

About 16.7 percent of the plans included in the survey were still grandmothered in 2015. UBA did not give a 2014 comparison figure for those plans that are grandmothered.

Meanwhile, Gallup, a polling firm, found that the percentage of U.S. residents who said they lacked major medical coverage fell to 11 percent in the first quarter, according to a recent Gallup-Healthways survey report.

That was down from 11.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. The uninsured rate was also 11.9 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to earlier Gallup data.

Since the fourth quarter of 2013, before the major PPACA coverage expansion programs started up, the drop in the uninsured rate has been large for all income groups, but larger for the high-income group than any other.

The percentage of Gallup survey participants with annual income over $90,000 who were uninsured in the first quarter was 2.9 percent. Only half as many high-income people were uninsured as in late 2013.

In the under $36,000 income category and the $36,000 to $89,999 income category, the number of uninsured people fell by about one-third.

About 20 percent of the low-income Gallup survey participants and 8.2 percent of the middle-income survey participants were uninsured in the first quarter, according to Gallup. 

See also:

Uninsured rate drops sharply in some swing states

Typical Family Spends $12,000 Annually On Medical Care


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