Study says insurance claims to rise with health care law

Study says insurance premiums to rise with health care law

Just how expensive will that trip to the doctor be under the new health care law? A new report claims insurance companies will be paying out a lot more money, but one Lehigh Valley health care expert believes customers are unlikely to see their rates jump.

Business owners continue to worry about the premiums they'll pay for their employees' insurance.

"We have concerns," said Tony Ianelli, head of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. "The business community across the board has concerns about the cost of this Affordable Care Act."

And a new report is stoking that fire. The Society of Actuaries, the nation's leading group of risk calculators, claims Pennsylvania insurance companies will shell out 28 percent more in claims by the year 2017. It predicts New Jersey insurers will actually pay out 1.4 percent less, mainly due to different state regulations.

But before you get too alarmed about your insurance rates skyrocketing, at least one expert says not to.

"Don't panic about what you hear about this report," said Charles Inlander, a consultant and consumer advocate who has written two dozen books on the health care industry.

Inlander concedes that insurers will pay-out more money, but they're also gaining millions of paying customers.

"[If] they add 500,000 customers to their million customers under the new law, they have a much better bargaining chip with the hospitals and doctors, in terms of what the price is going to be," he said.

But critics worry that those new customers will come with costly medical conditions.

"Yes, they will increase their client base," said Ianelli, "but it won't be the customer base they've been dying to insure."

The report is limited. It does not look at the group insurance plans many employers already offer, only the effect of individuals buying insurance directly from carriers.

And even critics agree that the new law will finally let customers pick exactly what coverage they want.

"Now, the actual customer, the individual customer, will get involved, where in the past, the employers dictated what the policy was and what the benefits were," said Ianelli.

The new law will let people go online and directly compare insurance carriers' prices for each type of coverage.

'That's going to make the insurance companies have to be far more competitive," said Inlander. "They all want your business and they're all going to push premiums down as low as they possibly can to get your business in there."

The new health care gets fully implemented next year.

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