4 Health Plan Trends for 2012

Margaret Dick Tocknell, December 27, 2011

Originally published December 22, 2011.

What’s in store for health plans in 2012?

Health plans—at least, most of the big nationals—have money burning a hole in their pockets, and they are on the hunt for investments. Health plans specializing in government health insurance programs continue to be attractive acquisition targets but insurers also are looking for ways to diversify their holdings to influence the cost structure along the continuum of care.

Here’s how the year may play out for health plans.

1. Health insurers may be acquired by hospitals
It’s déjà vu again for provider-sponsored health plans. Back in the 1990s, with an eye toward upstream revenue, almost every self-respecting hospital had its very own health plan. That arrangement fell out of favor and hospitals dropped those health plans like the proverbial hot potato. Fast forward to 2012 and guess what?

With patient volumes and case mixes in decline, hospitals once again want to get involved in the financing end of healthcare delivery. Hospitals want to be able to control where dollars get spent for services and networks. That means owning a health insurance company. The nationals such as Aetna and WellPoint won’t be in play, but expect regional hospital systems to take a hard look at regional health plans. Medicaid plans, especially in states where managed care is being implemented, will also be attractive acquisition options.

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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