In recent weeks, health insurers Centene Corp., UnitedHealth Group Inc., and Anthem Inc. released earnings. Two others, Molina Healthcare Inc. and Humana Inc., will report later this month. Among the worrisome trends discussed on their earnings calls is a growing medical cost ratio, or MCR, the percent of premium the insurer spends on claims and expenses that improves health care quality. It is sometimes referred to as a medical-loss ratio.
Following Anthem’s earnings announcement on July 23, its stock dropped by 6.4% after the close of trading, leading declines among insurers. Anthem also had the largest increase in its MCR from the same period in 2018.
While the stocks of these health insurers got hit with this news, shares of some of publicly traded health systems, by contrast, have seen their best week since November of 2016. Below is a chart of the Bloomberg Intelligence index of hospital chains (BRUSHOSV).
The takeaway for private health insurers
We would suggest that private health plans communicate with their boards and other stakeholders interested in their financial results about how their medical cost ratio trends compare to those of the large health insurers. Proactive benchmarking will help to level set expectations.