CHICAGO — —
"People have sharpened their pencils more than probably anyone expected," said David Axene of the Society of Actuaries. But it's likely those low-cost plans won't have broad networks of hospitals and doctors that consumers with good insurance have come to expect, Axene said.
"Prices are lower for reasons," said Axene, an independent actuary from California who reviewed the Illinois information at the request of The Associated Press. Axene, who has examined insurance prices in other states' marketplaces, has seen insurance carriers in those states offering low prices because "instead of having all the hospitals in town they might only have three or four hospitals" in their networks.
Illinois consumers should take care when considering a health plan that their favorite doctors and hospitals accept that coverage, Axene cautioned.
Andrew Boron, the director of the Illinois Department of Insurance, confirmed that some insurers on the state marketplace are offering narrow networks to keep costs low. Details about the hospitals and doctors included in the insurance networks weren't released Tuesday. That information will be available to consumers next week, when the health care exchanges open for business in Illinois and the other 49 states.
It's unclear how long this year's low prices might last, as insurers may be charging low prices to attract customers who they hope to retain when they later raise rates, Axene said. He noted that Illinois released only the rates for the lowest-cost plans, not the full spread of prices from low to high.
Another reason for low prices could be that several insurers offering plans in Illinois have experience as Medicaid managed care providers, Axene said. Those companies — such as Humana, Coventry and Aetna — may be using their previous Medicaid experience to negotiate low prices with hospitals and doctors. "Carriers that had a lot of Medicaid business are edging into commercial space," he said.