HealthPartners is offering more than $40 million in premium credits to employer and individual customers — the latest insurer to announce financial help for customers in the midst of fewer medical claims.
Most of the financial help is being directed at employers that buy coverage, but about 20% will help individuals who buy coverage for themselves.
Altogether, health plans that provide coverage to more than 300,000 people will benefit, Bloomington-based HealthPartners said, although employers will decide how to utilize credits.
Across the industry, health insurers have described “imbalances” where employers and individuals are paying premiums that are significantly higher than would be needed to cover reduced usage of health care due to COVID-19.
“This step will hopefully offset some of the financial burden our members and employer partners are experiencing,” said Andrea Walsh, chief executive at HealthPartners, in a statement.
In October, the California-based Kaiser Family Foundation reported that health insurers, in general, saw higher profit margins during the second quarter amid lower spending on medical care.
Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare, which is the nation’s largest health insurer, has reported that demand for medical services hit a low this spring at roughly two-thirds of normal before recovering this fall to about 95% of baseline.
Beyond reporting record profits in the second quarter, UnitedHealthcare is spending $2 billion on a variety of measures including premium credits and cost-sharing waivers to support customers.
Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota announced in August it would provide about $70 million in rebates and premium credits. Also this year, several health insurers including Minneapolis-based UCare and Minnetonka-based Medica said they would discount premiums for some Medicare health plans, as well.
In the market for employer group coverage, Medica said it is monitoring the situation but hasn’t issued rebates and credits.
“Our estimates continue to suggest that the cost impact of COVID-19 for 2020 and 2021 range from -1% to +3% in medical expense,” the insurer said in a statement. “Our focus is to keep the long-term costs of health insurance stable and sustainable for members, which is why we haven’t issued rebates and credits. We continue to monitor this situation.”
At HealthPartners, credits will be applied to December premiums. They are available to employers that buy “fully-insured” health plans, where the carrier takes financial risk for medical costs, as opposed to self-insured employers that take the risk themselves.
Rebates in the individual market could offset future rebates to customers that would have been required under the federal Affordable Care Act, HealthPartners said. But the credits today aren’t required by the federal government.
In a statement, HealthPartners said it is continuing to provide full coverage of COVID-related testing and treatment without any cost-sharing. The insurer also is a large operator of hospitals and clinics, including Regions Hospital in St. Paul and Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.