High unemployment in 2009 squeezed private health coverage and enrollment in publicly subsidized managed care plans, according to health insurance ratings agency A.M. Best Co.
In a latest report, commercial enrollment among publicly traded insurers dropped by 2.3% or 2.3 million members through the first nine months of 2009. No overall reversal is expected until employers start hiring, the agency said.
The findings are reflective in recent reports by major insurers, which indicated significant enrollment drops in 2009 compared to 2008. Aetna, UnitedHealth Group Inc, WellPoint, Humana Inc., and CIGNA all have reported enrollment drops. The enrollment losses have been tied to reduced jobs, and a reduced number of people covered by employer-sponsored health insurance.
CIGNA, for instance, reported that medical membership fell 5.5 % to 11 million in the final quarter of 2009, compared to the final quarter of 2008. Enrollment fell less than 1% from the third to fourth quarter of last year, according to the company. Enrollment is expected to range from a 1% loss to a 2% gain in 2010.
WellPoint and UnitedHealth Group also reported enrollment drops that slowed over the final two quarters of 2009 and both said they expect continued losses into 2010. Aetna's fourth-quarter earnings fell 15% as the health insurer stated it continued to feel the effects of inadequate pricing, as well as pressures from the economic downturn.
The A.M. Best report also noted: