Pension & Benefits News COVID-19 pandemic not a driver of health spending in 2022
Tuesday, August 3, 2021

COVID-19 pandemic not a driver of health spending in 2022

By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff

For 2022, insurers expect health utilization patterns to return to pre-pandemic levels and are not including any additional costs or savings into next year’s premiums. Additionally, telehealth use was expected to continue but not expected to impact net costs after the pandemic. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the insurers were making similar assumptions about how COVID-19 and the pandemic would affect group market costs. KFF noted that although insurers use comprehensive data to project changes in healthcare spending and use, the pandemic would continue to keep the projections speculative.

Health care use early in the pandemic had plummeted as providers cancelled elective care and patients stayed home. KFF examined insurer filings in 13 states and the District of Columbia and found that of the 75 insurer filings, only 13 insurers said that the COVID-19 pandemic would have an upward effect on costs. However, the upward costs were listed by the same insurers as less than 1 percent; this included seven plans in New York, three in Connecticut, and one each in Tennessee, Michigan, and Vermont. Three insurers said that the pandemic would decrease their costs and about 50 percent of insurers stated that the pandemic would have no net impact on 2022 costs.

Increases. The KFF report found that of the increased costs, most were related to ongoing COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccinations, as well as the anticipated vaccination boosters. Although hospitalization and death rates have dropped, KFF noted that several insurers anticipated ongoing medical expenses related to COVID-19 for younger enrollees or those who delayed vaccination.

Telehealth and other policy changes. Of the 17 insurers that mentioned and anticipated the continued use of telemedicine post-pandemic, none expected any impact on net costs. Insurers also expected that increased federal premium subsidies as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) would increase marketplace enrollment in 2022. In their filings, KFF noted that few insurers mentioned the No Surprises Act, which prohibits most surprise out-of-network billing starting in 2022.


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