Washington, Jun 7 - By: Sarah Kliff
The Politico

A Virginia-based insurance company says "considerable uncertainties" created by the Democrats' health care overhaul will force it to close its doors by the end of the year.

The firm, nHealth, appears to be the first to claim that the new law has driven it out of business. "We don't know what the rules are going to be and, as a start-up, our investors need certainty," nHealth CEO and president, Paul Kitchen, told POLITICO. "The law created so much uncertainty that is beyond our control."

In a letter to the company's 50 or so employees last week, executive vice president James Slabaugh said nHealth has stopped accepting new group customers and will terminate all business by Dec. 31, 2010.

"The uncertainties in the regulatory climate coupled with new demands imposed by national healthcare reforms have made it challenging to sustain the level of sales required to remain viable over the long run," Slabaugh wrote.

The company's finger-pointing — first reported by Richmond Biz Sense — must be read with caution: For years now, health insurance brokers and employers alike have struggled to keep pace with steeply rising health care costs.

Asked about nHealth's decision to shut down, a White House aide cautioned: "It's difficult to comment on this case without fully evaluating the company in question."

The blame game — whether health reform can accurately be held responsible for the continuing woes of an already struggling system — will likely become a familiar plotline as the health overhaul takes effect and political parties vie for control of the narrative.

President Barack Obama dives back into the fray Tuesday, traveling to a senior center in Wheaton, Md., for a national tele-town hall on the health care.

nHealth began about two and a half years ago and was named in October 2008 one of "Greater Richmond Companies to Watch" by a local business group. Kitchen estimates the company has about 100 small business contracts providing policies to "thousands" of subscribers.

nHealth specializes in high deductible insurance plans, meant to cover larger medical emergencies, that pair with Health Savings Accounts, the tax deductible accounts used to pay for medical expenses.

HSAs have growth dramatically since they were authorized in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act. They began with about 1 million enrollees in 2005 and now stand at about 10 million, according to a May 2010 report from America's Health Insurance Plans.

HSAs are a favorite of conservative health economists, who see the plans as a way to control costs by leaving spending decisions to the individual consumer. Others have criticized the plans as discouraging cost-saving behavior like preventive care.

In an interview with POLITICO, Kitchen explained the impact of health reform on his business as two-fold. First, it created an uncertain future. With regulations yet to be written and rules constantly forthcoming, he said "everything felt beyond our control."

Second, Kitchen is apprehensive about a more-heavily regulated insurance market. The new health reform law requires insurance companies to spend a certain amount of premium dollars on medical costs and, in many cases, bans lifetime limits on medical coverage. Kitchen said he was uncertain whether nHealth would be able to comply.

"The rules changed in the middle of the game," says Kitchen. "We're not willing to wander into that environment." The White House aide agreed that the rules will indeed change, but in a way that benefits consumers. Stricter regulations will ultimately guarantee better coverage for subscribers. The medical loss ratio regulation, for example, will ensure that insurers spend a certain percent of subscriber dollars on medical costs rather than administrative expenses.

The Affordable Care Act sets new standards for insurance coverage that protect consumers and ensure they get the most for their premium dollar," the aide said. "Insurers should have no problem meeting those standards, which do not require action until 2012. And starting in 2014, the insurance industry will have millions of new customers."

Even without the health reform law, small health insurance firms were operating in a financially challenging landscape. Employers have become increasingly likely to consider dropping coverage as premiums have steadily risen, according to annual surveys by the National Small Business Association. As far back as 2008, a Citigroup survey showed "more insurers were raising premiums at a faster rate than those who reported slowing increases," according to a Wall Street Journal article at the time.


Views: 88

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Uncertainty is the name of the game. While we might not be able to assign 100% of the blame to the spectre of Obamacare, uncertainty about what the law is going to do and what its effects are going to be on private health insurance certainly had an effect on the people who decided whether this organization stayed in business or not.

As for his last Tuesday town hall meeting, where Barack promised rebate checks to seniors, he did not mention that 90% of seniors will not get the rebates, the law would cut $500,000,000,000 from medicare, and cause millions of seniors to lose their medicare coverage. Those don't test well in focus groups.
The cuts started already and even happening locally in regards to healthcare. ER did a sinus xray for a couple of clients who were in ER with complaints of headache, blurred vision, dizziness, vomiting and weakness on one side. Both were sent home because sinus xrays and bloodwork showed nothing.

Now we wait until we can see neurologist at personal expense but treatment to stop effects will be too late. But hey they are "old" so don't need treatment right? (one is 71, the other is 79). Insurance is a joke if you can't get appropriate medical care anyway.
While I still believe in a strong free market and democracy here, all these CEO's that make millions per year and added bonuses has to be somewhat harnessed for our future financial well being. Wayyyyyyyy toooooooo many are making absolute killings in money they have not earned nor are worth in any free or unfree market. Monies paid in one year or end of the year bonuses they couldn't spend wisely in the next 10 generations of their family's future. It's one thing to make as much as you can as person whom derives direct money from your talent and presence as an icon, it's quite another to be overpaid just because you rule on some board of directors or are a CEO of a publicly traded firm, esp. where obscene profits are the trough from whence they come, and that costs associated to the public are not debatable, like greedy insurance, health care, financial institutions, and the list goes on.


© 2024   Created by XLFD.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service