Ga. shows healthy competition on insurance

Print Friendly and PDF By: Andy Miller Published: Oct 14, 2011

Georgia’s health insurance market is among the more competitive in the nation, a newly released study indicates.

Seven health insurers in Georgia each have more than a 5 percent market share for individual policies, according to the study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, released Thursday. That means Georgia is tied for No. 1 among the states in the number of insurers with that level of market share.

The largest insurer for individual policies, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, holds 47 percent of the market in the state, the analysis found.

The study reported that a single insurer dominated at least half of the individual market in 30 states and the District of Columbia. In the individual market, the market share held by the biggest plan ranged from 21 percent in Wisconsin to 86 percent in Alabama, which is dominated by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. Here’s a Montgomery Advertiser article on the Alabama situation.

Georgia’s insurance market for small-group policies appears competitive as well. Five carriers in the state have more than 5 percent of this small-employer market, with the largest insurer, Blue Cross, at 32 percent.

Blue Cross of Georgia issued a statement saying that the company had a 28 percent share of the overall health insurance market in the state. “From our perspective, Georgia really is a competitive market,” Blue Cross said.

The study, which analyzed 2010 insurer filings to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, found that for small-group policies, a single insurer accounted for at least half of the market share in 26 states and the District of Columbia.

The market share of the largest plan in the small-group market ranged from less than 24 percent in Oregon and Pennsylvania to 96 percent in Alabama.

The report’s authors note that if a single insurer dominates a state’s market, that company could exert ‘‘significant influence over the premiums charged in the market and the rates paid to health care providers.’’

Authors Cynthia Cox and Larry Levitt write that the analysis may help states make key decisions on setting up their own health insurance exchanges and on reviewing insurers’ requests for proposed increases in annual premiums – both components of the 2010 health reform law.

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a committee to study creating an exchange in Georgia. The panel is moving toward recommendations for legislation to Deal by the end of the year. Here’s a recent GHN article on the exchange committee’s progress.

Georgia is among 26 states fighting the reform law in the courts.

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