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'Healthcare expense this year is off the chart"- a conversation with Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty

Pat Geraghty, CEO and President of GuideWell and Florida Blue. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Pat Geraghty, CEO and President of GuideWell and Florida Blue. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

The pandemic wrought havoc on the health care system and the economy, with the politicization of vaccines adding an extra level of chaos.

So what does that mean for the business of health insurance?

With open enrollment underway this week for people shopping for insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Florida Blue and Guidewell CEO and president Pat Geraghty joins Intersection to talk about the impact of the pandemic on the health insurance industry, how people are getting health insurance, vaccine mandates and more. 

"COVID, obviously has been very complex for all of us to manage," says Geraghty.

He says health care expenses dipped last year because most providers were focused on COVID-19, and discretionary health care took a back seat.

"That was a one year phenomenon. This year, when the delta variant took off, the health systems were much more prepared for isolating COVID, dealing with it, and also dealing with their normal volume of patients. Therefore, healthcare expense this year is off the chart. Very, very high expenses come through the system, and health plans and others, employers, have all had to deal with it."

Health insurance premiums are going up, with Florida Blue's rates increasing by nearly 10% next year.

Geraghty says that's partly due to COVID-19.

"Pricing that isn't in a small insured market, like the ACA, is really reflective of the experience. So if we have high claim experience, it's going to be reflected in next year's price. And as I said, this year, we had the combination of COVID expenses and the return of all of the pent up demand in the regular health services. So experience was running quite high because of that."

Geraghty says Florida Blue's approach to the Federal requirement to get staff vaccinated has been to focus on education and encouragement. He says about 80% of the company's workforce is now vaccinated.

"We've set up seminars, education outreach, we've done vaccine clinics at our work sites, we've really tried to give the full range of ways for people to get covered and to get vaccinated, you know, before the timeline runs out on the federal mandate, and we see people that are now with that nudge are moving forward to get vaccinated," says Geraghty.

"And we're hopeful that most of if not all of our folks will avail themselves of one of the three paths, get vaccinated or have one of the two [religious or medical] exemptions."