Dramatic rise in health insurance premiums, 2016

Robert Pear, “Health Insurance Companies Seek Big Rate Increases for 2016”. New York Times, July 3, 2015

The high cost of healthcare hits a raw nerve that has long been the cause of significant pain.   The proposed increases in health insurance premiums for 2016 portend more suffering for all, individuals and institutions alike. We need some relief now.

A single payer is an obvious, but non-viable solution unless the country elects 60 senators and 218 representatives who think like Bernie Sanders.  Realistic alternatives must reshape the incentives for healthcare consumers.  In recent years, health insurers have used high deductibles and narrow provider networks to reduce healthcare utilization and mitigate premium increases.  These tools have frustrated patients, reduced their access to care, and lowered the overall quality of our healthcare system.

It is time for health insurers to get serious about cost control by disclosing their fee schedules.  If  healthcare consumers with high deductibles understood the variation in fees that insurers pay to different providers, then they could navigate the healthcare marketplace to reduce their own costs.  The fact that fees can vary 10 fold or more for the same service, in the same community, is information that consumers of healthcare, and their providers, need to know. The complete lack of transparency in healthcare is one of the primary reasons we are hitting the glass ceiling.