Will flu season increase insurance claims, costs?

Since this flu season started early and already has become widespread, more health insurance members may be receiving medical care and driving up costs for insurers.

Insurers most likely to be affected by the flu season's early start include Humana, Centene and Coventry, which all have larger market shares in Florida, Texas and Georgia, where the virus already is prevalent, Bloomberg reported.

"These companies have a larger percentage of their enrollment in states with a high incidence of the flu," Michael Manns, a Bloomberg Industries analyst said. "If we look at those who are slanted toward older patients, we'll see an increase in doctor office visits and hospital outpatient visits. That will probably drive utilization higher rate than people may have anticipated."

But even larger insurers like Aetna have seen an increase in claims as a result of the heavy flu season this year. Even still, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini doesn't expect to pay more than the normal range on flu claims, between $40 million and $50 million, reported the Associated Press.  

"We have seen the spike in intensity that everybody else has," Bertolini said at J.P. Morgan's healthcare conference in San Francisco. But he added that costs have been toned-down because of fewer hospital admissions than in the past, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Likewise, Cigna CEO David Cordani said the insurer has seen a similar increase in medical usage because of the flu, but said it was "nothing dramatic."

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article
- see the Associated Press article
- check out the Fox Business article