The leader of one of the largest, fastest-growing health insurers in the United States is still wary of what COVID-19 will do.
Michael Neidorff, the chief executive officer of Centene Corp., told securities analysts Tuesday, that, because of the pandemic, he continues to see the business environment for health insurers as being “choppy.”
As recently as June, Neidorff said, the company was assuming that a big COVID-19 peak in March and April would be followed by a series of smaller spikes in the summer, and, possibly, a second big wave of cases in the fall.
Overall, June looked almost like a normal month, Neidorff said.
“However, the current trajectory shows the infection rates are rising significantly across a number of key states, and case counts continue to go up which differs from what we expected only a few weeks ago,” Neidorff said.
“With the recent surge in the virus, we are seeing some decline in utilization in July,” Neidorff said. “While we believe hospitals are better prepared to manage COVID cases after learning from the experience of the initial outbreak, there are indications that some hospitals are reverting back to delaying elective procedures, if necessary, based on a regional infection rate.”
In the fall, “if we have a bad flu season, that, combined with COVID, could be a very serious combination, Neidorff said.
He said that he thinks tough, two-month lockdowns have helped some European countries get COVID-19 under control, but that no U.S. region seems to have the pandemic fully under control.
One a region gets the pandemic under control, officials lighten social distancing restrictions, and “then it pops up again,” Neidorff said.
Neidorff said he wants to encourage everyone to wear masks, until an effective vaccine comes along.
Countries in Asia have held pandemic death rates to much lower levels than the U.S. levels over the years because people in Asia accept the idea of wearing masks, Neidorff said.