Aetna CEO warns: Expect price hikes, bankruptcies, and policy changes

“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor … If you like your coverage, you can keep your coverage.”  Barack Obama repeatedly offered these promises to audiences across the US in campaigning for ObamaCare, but Ron Williams, CEO of Aetna, begs to differ.  Williams provides health insurance to over 36 million people, and he has one message for Charlie Rose and the US — expect change:

Will insurance premiums go up?
The answer is yes, and some of the things that will drive those premiums are significant additional taxes the industry will ultimately have to pay in the first year.

The President said that this bill would not have any impact on people who already had coverage, that it was about the uninsured, that there would be no change. Will this legislation change the coverage of people who are already paying for it?
My perception is, yes, things will change. You might not have a plan that includes the exact same doctors. You might have plans that have richer benefits, and therefore you’re going to pay more for benefits you may or may not want. It would have been a better message to say, we’re going to make certain you maintain your eligibility.

Williams also expressed disappointment in the demonization of insurers during the ObamaCare debate.  Aetna employs over 35,000 people in that industry, and they certainly don’t see themselves as villains.  Although he doesn’t mention it, Williams had to have found himself a bit nonplussed over all the hyperbole about industry profiteering, too, with the health-insurance industry’s average of two to six points of annual margin.

That brings us to Williams’ assessment of the industry after ObamaCare.  One reason that people may have fewer choices in health insurance — and why they may lose their doctor or plan — is because smaller insurers won’t survive.  The new mandates and the expenses incurred by insurers that didn’t plan for them will swamp them in a sea of red ink.  Williams sees these insurers with their boutique plans as endangered species, who will either get swallowed whole by larger companies and their plans discontinued, or will succumb to bankruptcy and fail outright.

As Jim Geraghty says, every promise from Obama comes with an expiration date.