Saturday, April 21, 2018
Business

Insurers, hospitals brace for health care ruling and stock fallout

NEW YORK — If the Supreme Court throws out President Barack Obama's health care overhaul this month, companies would rejoice, right?

Well, not all of them.

For many companies, overturning the law could mean less profit, not more. Certain health care insurers and hospitals could no longer expect to get payments from millions of newly insured patients.

What's more, health care experts say many big companies want to see the law upheld because they've worked hard to adapt to it and fear legislation replacing it might prove more costly to them.

"There's no guarantee that Washington wouldn't come up with something more disruptive," said Matthew Coffina, a health care analyst at Morningstar, a research firm. "You have to worry about what comes next."

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law, called the Affordable Care Act, by the end of the month. The justices will decide whether Congress went beyond its authority in the Constitution in passing it. They could throw out all of the convoluted law, part of it or decide to keep it intact.

Opponents have focused on the so-called individual mandate. This requires virtually every U.S. resident to carry health insurance. Most of the estimated 50 million currently uninsured will be able to obtain taxpayer-subsidized coverage, either through an expansion of Medicaid eligibility or new markets for private insurance called exchanges. Some people are exempt from the mandate, such as illegal immigrants.

If the court throws out the individual mandate but keeps the rest of the law, hospitals would have to foot at least some of the bill when uninsured patients show up for treatment. Though it's not clear investors are anticipating this, they have been selling stock of hospital chains lately. Since the high court started considering the case in late March, they have pushed down the stock of Universal Health Services, Tenet Healthcare and Kindred Healthcare by 6 percent or more.

Some insurers could get hit, too. In a partial repeal, the law would still require insurers to offer policies to people with prior medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer. That raises the scary prospect of only costly, sick people signing up for coverage. Healthy people who would otherwise help pay for sick people's bills with their premium payments might choose to stay uninsured. After all, they could always sign up for coverage once they got ill.

If the Supreme Court repeals the individual mandate and the new coverage rules, insurers wouldn't have to worry about people signing up for coverage only after they got sick. They could just reject them. And the tax credit and Medicaid expansion would remain. Experts expect many uninsured would take advantage of those incentives to get coverage, and insurers would make more money.

Just how much of a benefit insurers would see under this scenario is difficult to know. Many insurers do the bulk of their business with employers, with individual policies accounting for a tiny share. At Wellpoint, one of the biggest providers of individual insurance, policyholders getting such coverage make up less than 5 percent of the total.

If the court repeals the entire law, insurers focused on Medicaid recipients could lose. Of the estimated 30 million people gaining coverage under the law, more than half are expected to benefit from the expansion of eligibility requirements for Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income families. Take away the law, and you take away those new customers.

But it's unclear how much insurance stocks would fall, if at all. Morningstar's Coffina says he doesn't think Medicaid will pay as much in premiums for the new recipients as they do for the elderly, blind or disabled already in the program. And so he questions whether insurers specializing in Medicaid will lose much if the law is repealed.

Comments
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18