Dec 19, 2019

Cigna's big divestiture on its life and disability insurance business

Photo: Julia Rendleman/Getty Images for Eventive Marketing

Cigna finally pulled the trigger on selling its life and disability insurance business, netting $5.3 billion after taxes from New York Life.

The big picture: Health insurers have been divesting products that have less to do with actual medical care and instead combining with companies that sell drug benefits

Yes, but: That money isn't resulting in lower health premiums.

  • Cigna said it would use $3 billion from the New York Life deal to buy back stock, while the rest will go toward paying down the debt associated with its Express Scripts acquisition.

Speaking of stock buybacks, four of the five major insurers (Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group) have now bought back $13.2 billion worth of their stock this year, according to financial filings analyzed by Axios.

  • That's roughly what it would cost to cover the annual premiums of benchmark health plans for almost 2.4 million people on the ACA's marketplaces next year, based on Kaiser Family Foundation data.

Go deeper: Health care profits dip, but stocks soar

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The health care debate we ought to be having

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Scott Eisen/Getty Images and Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Americans worry a lot about how to get and pay for good health care, but the 2020 presidential candidates are barely talking about what's at the root of these problems: Almost every incentive in the U.S. health care system is broken.

Why it matters: President Trump and most of the Democratic field are minimizing the hard conversations with voters about why health care eats up so much of each paycheck and what it would really take to change things.

Hospital charges surge over last 2 decades, especially in the ER

Reproduced from Thomas M. Selden, 2019, "Differences Between Public and Private Hospital Payment Rates Narrowed"; Chart: Axios Visuals

The rates charged by hospitals — especially for emergency department care — have skyrocketed over the last two decades, according to a new study in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: While most patients with insurance don't pay these prices for their care — insurers typically negotiate lower rates — those who are uninsured or out-of-network often do.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

Medicare for All's missing mental health discussion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's mental health care system is in dire need of an overhaul, but the any real specifics are largely missing from the 2020 debate about health care.

Why it matters: Suicide and drug overdose rates continue to rise, and the U.S. faces a shortage of mental health providers and a lack of access to treatment.

Go deeperArrowJan 8, 2020