The American Continent
Brazilian personal accident, health insurance market to grow
Brazil’s personal accident and health insurance market is expected to grow in 2015 after recording the third-largest share in terms of total retained premiums of the Brazilian insurance industry in 2010.The factors of this growth will be increased penetration of health insurance products, rising disposable income and enhanced awareness for health insurance need in the country.
The other key driver of growth is the increasing number of companies that offer health insurance as an employee benefit in the country. Group health insurance policies are also expected to increase their market share in 2015.
Social media a tool to focus protests against the insurance industry
Social media could be used to harm the Canada's property and casualty industry as much as help it, according to Philip Cook, president and CEO of Omega Insurance Holdings. Specifically, Cook referred to the power of social media to mobilize public protests against insurers when economic times are tough and the affordability of insurance takes centre stage in the political spotlight.
Cook pointed out that consumers are carrying higher debt loads and have access to less disposable income as a result of recent financial crises. Insurance pricing could therefore become a credible target of discontent for these groups. Conceivably, they could take advantage of social media to mobilize against individual insurance companies or insurance regulators.
Major health insurers doing very well
The president of WellNet Healthcare Group, a US based national healthcare management company, recently revealed that US top health insurers were doing very well – even as the rest of the US economy struggled. UnitedHealth, for instance, posted more than $25 billion in revenue between July and September – and profits of more than $1 billion.
Americans now wonder if their increasing premiums are simply lining insurers' pockets, and insurers do nothing to dissuade them of that notion by refusing to make public the data underpinning their rate hikes. That's unacceptable. Consumers have a right to know how insurers set premiums. Armed with such data, employers and individuals could resist unreasonable premium increases and make more cost-effective healthcare decisions.
Premiums were up 9% in 2011, after increases of 3% in 2010 and 5% in 2009. Insurers insist the high cost of care is to blame for the high cost of insurance. That's plausible. But why won't they open up their books to prove it?
Insurers argue that their data is a "trade secret" and that publicizing it would benefit rivals, reduce competition, and produce higher prices. But if consumers had access to insurers' data, they'd be able to determine where their healthcare dollars were going – and take steps to cut costs. For example, if employers learned that doctors' visits were driving up the cost of the coverage they provided workers, they could establish on-site medical clinics to save money.
Or if companies discovered that prescription drugs were responsible for rate hikes, they could encourage employees to use cheaper generic alternatives. Employers and employees would benefit. Health costs would plummet even as beneficiaries received equally good or better care.
Employment figures US Insurance Industry
Employment in the U.S. insurance industry added 3,300 jobs in December -- a 3.3% increase from the previous month. The insurance-industry employment figures for December put the industry about on par with where it stood in April. On a year-to-year basis, the industry, which currently sits at roughly 2.2 million jobs, is up just 0.39% since December 2010.
Linking US Medicare reimbursements to the quality of a hospital's care
Hospitals across the USA have spent more than a year preparing for Oct. 1, 2012. That is the expected launch date for two health care reform measures that will link Medicare reimbursements to the quality of a hospital's care. Readmission rates, patient satisfaction and a plethora of other measures will be used to calculate reimbursement rates, with lower-performing hospitals receiving less money than higher-performing ones.
The health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010 contains a number of measures scheduled to be rolled out this year. The coming year might also bring a decision on one of the portions of health care reform legislation requiring every American to buy health insurance by 2014 or risk financial penalties.
One of this year's measures is called value-based purchasing, which means Medicare reimbursements to hospitals will be based on the quality of care performed. There are a number of measures that will be considered when assessing a hospital's quality of care, and more will be added as time goes on.
How satisfied a patient is with the care he or she received is one of the quality measures being linked to Medicare reimbursements. Patients will be asked about how well doctors and nurses communicated with them, whether their pain was controlled and even if the hospital was quiet and the patients' rooms were clean.
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