Insurer troubles could mean more bad debt for providers

In recent weeks, health insurers have started announcing financial results, and the news hasn't been good. WellPoint, for example, saw profits fall 25 percent, and UnitedHealth Group recently lowered its 2008 profit outlook by 40 cents per share. With insurers feeling financial pain, they're likely to raise premiums next year. In response, companies are likely to ask employees to carry more healthcare costs, industry watchers say. The net effect of all of this buck-passing is that with consumers facing higher bills, providers are likely to face high levels of bad debt, financial analysts predict. That's the case, in part, because consumers will be facing not only higher bills, but also a tougher economy and challenging job market, both of which further limit their ability to pay down medical debt. Add that to confusion over the use of the National Provider Identifier on Medicare claims--which could slow payments substantially--and 2009 is shaping up to be a very difficult year for providers, especially hospitals, healthcare analysts warn.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this InsideARM piece

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