KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Moody’s Downgrades Outlook For Health Insurers

The credit-rating firm downgraded the outlook for health insurers from stable to negative, citing the health law's troubled rollout. Meanwhile, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini predicted that companies would soon spend billions on consumer advertising. And The New York Times explores allegations that Health Management Associates, a for-profit hospital chain based in Naples, Fla., pursued strategies to increase admissions, regardless of whether a patient needed hospital care.

The Washington Post: Moody's Downgrades Outlook For Health Insurers
Major credit-rating firm Moody’s on Thursday downgraded the outlook for health insurers from stable to negative, citing the new health-care law’s botched rollout as a significant factor. Moody’s highlighted the relatively low sign-up rate among young adults and a slew of last-minute regulatory changes by the Obama administration as posing risks to health insurers selling policies on the new exchanges (Kliff and Somashekhar, 1/23). 

The Fiscal Times: Moody's: Obamacare Uncertainty Hurting Health Insurer Outlook
Obamacare's rocky rollout is creating uncertainty for the insurance industry and rating agencies are taking note. Moody’s Investors Service on Thursday announced that it has changed its outlook on the entire sector from "stable" to "negative" due to uncertainty surrounding the president's health care law. "While we've had industry risks from regulatory changes on our radar for a while, the ongoing unstable and evolving environment is a key factor for our outlook change," Moody’s Senior Vice President Stephen Zaharuk said in a statement (Ehley, 1/23).

CQ HealthBeat: Health Insurer Outlook Downgraded By Moody's, Citing Exchange's Older Enrollees
Moody’s Investors Service announced Thursday that it has downgraded its outlook of the U.S. health insurance sector from stable to negative, pointing to aspects of the health care law’s implementation as "most challenging" to insurers' credit profile. In its report, the ratings agency said it's been following issues surrounding key pieces of the in the lead-up to 2014. But "the unstable and evolving regulatory environment under which the sector is operating" is new and a key reason for the shift, Moody's said, citing new regulations and announcements from the White House (Attias, 1/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Aetna CEO Predicts Surge In Marketing Spending Among Health Insurers
Aetna Inc. Chief Executive Mark Bertolini on Friday said that the evolution of the U.S. health-insurance market will soon push insurers to spend billions more on marketing to consumers. As more consumers begin to shop for their own health insurance via private and government-run exchanges, Mr. Bertolini said insurers will have little choice but to raise their budgets significantly to reach them. He said that he hoped to increase Aetna's marketing spend by five times in the years ahead (Berman, 1/24).

The New York Times: Hospital Chain Said To Scheme To Inflate Bills
Every day the scorecards went up, where they could be seen by all of the hospital’s emergency room doctors. Physicians hitting the target to admit at least half of the patients over 65 years old who entered the emergency department were color-coded green. The names of doctors who were close were yellow. Failing physicians were red. The scorecards, according to one whistle-blower lawsuit, were just one of the many ways that Health Management Associates, a for-profit hospital chain based in Naples, Fla., kept tabs on an internal strategy that regulators and others say was intended to increase admissions, regardless of whether a patient needed hospital care, and pressure the doctors who worked at the hospital (Creswell and Abelson, 1/23).

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