With fewer claims to pay out, some health insurers are using their improved balance sheets to help struggling providers secure loans, pay claims earlier and, in some cases, underwrite patients’ outstanding bills. And they have good reason to ensure providers survive the pandemic: “There is a risk that there is a smaller provider network after this,” said Brad Ellis, a senior director at Fitch Ratings. “So health insurers are trying to maintain the network.”
Here’s what a few of the insurers are doing:
- Blue Shield of California has set aside $200 million to act as a guarantor on loans for hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics and to purchase expected insurance claims in advance. The company also is helping certain fee-based providers switch to fixed monthly payments to ensure a steadier stream of income, and it is underwriting some patients’ financial obligations to improve cash flow.
- CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit health-care insurer that operates in the Baltimore metro area, is spending $110 million to provide interest-free financial support to hospitals and independent providers. The funds will have to be repaid at a later time.
UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of the nation’s biggest health insurer, has accelerated about $2 billion of payments to help alleviate pressure on doctors and hospitals. It also is offering as much as $125 million in small-business loans to health-care providers in which it holds a stake, according to an April 15 earnings statement.