Cost of health insurance claims to increase 10 percent

The cost of health insurance claims is expected to rise within the next 12 months, but insurers are getting tougher when negotiating prices with hospitals.

Healthcare cost trend increases for plans that offer prescription benefits could be 10.5 percent for health maintenance organization plans, 10.7 percent for preferred provider organization plans, and 11.0 percent for health account plans, according to the National Underwriter.

Last year, the healthcare cost trend estimates were 10.6 percent for HMO plans, 10.7 percent for PPO plans, and 10.5 percent for health account plans. The figures are based on Aon Consulting's analysis of healthcare cost trends for the next 12 months that are published in a summary of results from a survey of 60 large health carriers.

Aon estimates the new healthcare reform law could increase costs by between 2 percent and 5 percent over the next three years. Although it didn't predict the influence the law would have on costs next year, Tom Lerche, Aon's healthcare practice leader, estimated it probably will be closer to the lower end of that range because only a handful of the bill's provisions will be in place, the Associated Press reports.

As a result of these cost trends, insurers are getting tougher in price negotiations with hospitals. Some of the nation's largest health insurers say they are using their clients as leverage, as health plans and employers try to restrain medical costs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Employers are warming to the idea of narrow provider networks as a way to save money, which helps insurers in contract talks with hospitals.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- read the article in National Underwriter
- read the Associated Press article

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