The financial forecast in many parts of the country this summer calls for gloom and doom as health insurance companies pitch double-digit rate hikes to regulators for plans sold under Obamacare.
Citing soaring medical costs by new enrollees, major insurers like BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee want to jack rates by as much as 36 percent. It's unclear if Minnesotans will get pinched, but one thing remains certain: Minnetonka's UnitedHealthcare, America's largest health carrier, can't claim hardship if it wants to raise our rates.
The Affordable Care Act -- a.k.a. Obamacare -- requires insurers to file proposed rates to state regulators and, in most cases, the federal government by June 19.
But filings have already gone public in some states. And insurers are asking for monster increases.
Health Care Service Corp. in New Mexico is requesting an average premium increase of almost 52 percent. In Oregon, Moda Health wants to raise rates by an average of around 25 percent.
Local regulators can pressure carriers to whittle down their proposals if increases can't be substantiated, but they can't force them to cut rates.
According to Cheryl Fish-Parcham, director of Families USA, UnitedHealth's filings as of now present a mixed bag. In Connecticut, the company has proposed an increase of nearly 13 percent. In Maryland, it's pitching a 6 percent cut.
Either way, it would be hard for the company to argue that it's hurting.
Operating earnings for UnitedHealth's health insurance business jumped by 35 percent for in the first quarter of this year. Profits rose by almost 29 percent versus 2014, totaling more than $1.4 billion.
Last year, the company banked a near-record profit of $5.5 billion, making it one of the biggest winners in the Obamacare era.
Stephen Hemsley first joined UnitedHealth Group in 1997 and became CEO nine years later. Hemsley's base salary of $1.3 million remains the same today as it was when he first became CEO.
But Hemsley also receives stock options and vested company shares.
In 2010, he was reported to be the country's highest paid executive, pocketing almost $102 million. In 2014, his pay was $28 million.
According to Minnesota Department of Commerce spokeswoman Libby Caulum, insurer rate proposals for next year have already been submitted. They'll be made public June 1.
If UnitedHealthcare happens to propose rate increases in Minnesota come next month, remember this: Since 2006, Hemsley has taken home roughly $220 million just for playing middle man between you and your doctor.
Neddless to say, he'll be in no position to say he really needs more.
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