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Events of Sept. 11 Add Pressure To Boost Health Plan Premiums

MANAGED CARE December 2001. © MediMedia USA
News and Commentary

Events of Sept. 11 Add Pressure To Boost Health Plan Premiums

MANAGED CARE December 2001. ©MediMedia USA

The economic impact of Sept. 11 and the ensuing anthrax scare is still being calibrated, but it appears that health insurance premiums will increase even more than already had been predicted. USA Today reports that the terrorist attacks have led to increased physician and emergency room visits, as well as more prescriptions for antianxiety medication.

Many analysts before Sept. 11 had predicted that health care premiums would rise 13 percent or more next year.

Ed Kaplan, of the Segal Co., estimates that the terrorist incidents could nudge the rates up another 1 to 3 percent.

Not all analysts agree, saying that it is difficult to make accurate predictions at this point.

Blaine Bos, of William M. Mercer, told the newspaper that the health care services that have increased the most since Sept. 11 are "lower-cost items," such as physician-office visits and generic antianxiety drugs.

Cost pressures may come from other quarters as well. As Congress debates renewal of the Mental Health Parity Act, it can be argued that Sept. 11 added urgency to expanding access to behavioral services.

A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 71 percent of Americans have felt depressed by the attacks. Nearly half had trouble concentrating; a third had trouble sleeping.

Mental health professionals have warned that the scope and magnitude of the tragedy can be expected to generate unprecedented mental health consequences, and that the mental health system does not have the necessary resources in place to meet the onslaught of psychiatric disorders anticipated.

Poor health related to anxiety has shown up in the workplace as well. An AdvancePCS survey found that health troubles caused a loss of 4.5 productive hours per worker the week after the attack — more than double the 2.1 hours lost the week earlier.

Not helping matters at all is the growing concern that information the government disseminates concerning the domestic threat is spotty at best.

One example of that is the fact that for about two weeks before information on other antianthrax medications began to be circulated, the Food and Drug Administration didn't combat the perception that ciprofloxacin, and only that product, can combat anthrax.