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State Medicaid Coverage -A Cash Cow For The Healthcare Insurance Industry

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP,MACE


The healthcare insurance industry is preparing to capitalize on a $40 billion opportunity to run Medicaid plans for states when President Obama’s healthcare reform act adds 16 million people to the Medicaid roles in 2014.

Do the math. $40,000,000,000 divided by 16,000,000 people is a net profit of $2,500 per patient after expenses.

“Medicaid, the state and federal program for the poor, has become a growth area for big insurers.”

Citigroup research group estimates that presently the overall healthcare insurance industry’s net profit is about $56.5 billion per year. The addition of 16 million enrollees will add $40 billion dollars in net profit to the healthcare insurance industry’s bottom line.

The positioning of both major healthcare insurance companies and smaller companies has been proceeding quietly, as they want to stay below the radar of public detection.

California will have 2 million new enrollees. Texas will have 1.9 million enrollees.

The healthcare insurance industry is preparing bids to provide administrative services for each state’s Medicaid program. Most states are experiencing budget crises and find it is cheaper to outsource the administrative services of their Medicaid programs.

The healthcare insurance industry manage coverage of 70% of Medicaid enrollees, or 33.4 million people, up from 56% in 1999, according to Sanford C. Bernstein.”

States let contracts lasting five years. The states want to contract with vendors now so they do not experience disruptions in 2014 when the Medicaid expansion occurs.

The healthcare insurance companies are trying to customize their plans to win their bids.

Medicaid is one of health insurers’ few bright spots, as their margins are pressed by regulatory crackdowns on premiums in their traditional policies. Gail Boudreaux, UnitedHealth’s executive vice president, told investors last month that: "The Medicaid space is a significant long-term growth opportunity for us. It’s a big market that’s getting even bigger." UnitedHealth pegs the value of new bids or expansions over the next three years at $40 billion.”

Many healthcare insurance companies are jumping in to capture the Medicaid business. UnitedHealth and WellPoint(Blue Cross/Blue Shield) are at the head of the class. Smaller companies such as Amerigroup, Centene and Molina claim their specialized focus gives them an advantage over the larger companies.

"Understanding the state as a customer is quite different than understanding what GE or IBM want as a purchaser," said John Littel, Amerigroup’s executive vice president of external relations.”

President Obama did not think out his plans for Medicaid very well. His healthcare reform act has done nothing to repair the problems in the Medicaid insurance system. In fact, the funding demanded of the states has resulted in a decrease in funding of vital safety net city and county hospitals.

What remains is an expansion of a system that has failed to provide adequate care over the last 40 years. The defective design of the Medicaid system is responsible for its failure. It makes no sense that by expanding the program by 16 million uninsured people it will produce a successful program. Expanding a failed system will not solve our universal healthcare goals. It will only expand our federal and state deficits and provide more profit for the healthcare insurance industry.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

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