Membership falls at most of the biggest plans

Membership at most of the top (by enrollment) eight health insurers — Aetna, Cigna, Health Care Services (a Blue Cross Blue Shield company), Health Net, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint — continued to fall through the third quarter of 2009, according to research by Debra A. Donahue, vice president for market analytics and online products at Mark Farrah Associates, a provider of marketing data. Between September 2008 and September 2009, top plans, which included both fully-insured and administrative-services-only lines of business, saw an aggregate decline of 1.7 million members. These eight health companies cover nearly 60 percent of the total insured population in the United States.

Blame the weakened economy. “Employers aren’t hiring or offering additional coverage, and are laying off staff. The declining commercial numbers aren’t being fully offset by Medicare and Medicaid,” Donahue says.

Although the graph shows growth at Aetna, all of the growth came in the first quarter of 2009. “They’ve been slowly declining for the last two quarters. There is no growth for the majority of these plans,” says Donahue.

He continues: “To get membership numbers back up, premiums will have to come down. The way to do that is through more generic drug use and reducing pharmacy and medical costs. All these plans are focusing on ways to reduce costs.”

Source: Health Insurer Insights, Mark Farrah Associates

Fewer enrollees, 9/08-9/09

Change in top health plans’ total membership

“To get these membership numbers back up, premiums will have to come down,” says Debra A. Donahue, a VP at Mark Farrah Associates.

MANAGED CARE February 2010. ©MediMedia USA

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