Study: Medical claims costs to jump 32% by 2017

By 2017, insurers will be spending an average of 32 percent more for their individual members' medical claims, according to a new study from the Society of Actuaries.

And in some states, those costs could rise by as much as 80 percent. Both Ohio and Wisconsin will see an 80 percent increase in medical claims costs, while insurers in Indiana and Maryland will be paying out an additional 67 percent and Idaho will find medical costs grow by 62 percent, the SOA  report found.

The primary driver of these increased costs is the reform law's provision that allows sicker consumers, including those with pre-existing conditions, to obtain insurance. "Claims cost is the most important driver of healthcare premiums," Kristi Bohn, an actuary who worked on the study, told the Associated Press. 

At the other end of the spectrum suts New York and Massachusetts, which will only see medical claims costs grow by 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively. The few states with a small climb in medical costs already prohibit insurers from charging higher rates to older, sicker people.

However, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services called out the study for focusing only on one aspect of the reform law and ignoring other provisions, including tax credits that help consumers pay for premiums and special payments for insurers that enroll a large share of sicker members, the AP reported.

"Everything is speculation. I think there's likely to be some shifting in the markets," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters Tuesday at the White House, according to Reuters. "Women are going to see some lower costs, some men are going to see some higher costs. It's sort of a one to one shift ... some of the older customers may see a slight decline, and some of the younger ones are going to see a slight increase."

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- read the Associated Press article
- see the Reuters article