Insurance Industry Tries To Swallow Health Care Law

David Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna Corporation, talks with Audie Cornish about the practical implications of having the Affordable Care Act upheld. Cigna is one of the biggest health care companies in the country, insuring more than 11 million people.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're joined now by David Cordani, president and CEO of CIGNA Corporation. CIGNA is one of the biggest health care companies in the country, insuring more than 12 million people, including some of us here at NPR.

Mr. Cordani, welcome to the program.

DAVID CORDANI: Good to be with you today.

CORNISH: So I'd like to get your reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling today.

CORDANI: Yeah, the most important part of the ruling today is that it provides clarity in terms of what the court's decision is around the law and the individual mandate. Which means more peace of mind for individuals, continuity of services, continuity of programs which we think is positive for everybody.

CORNISH: At the same time, listening to politicians, it doesn't sound totally like the dust has settled because they're already talking about having another vote to repeal, in just two weeks in the House, anyway. Does it help or hurt for lawmakers to continue to litigate this after the court's had its say?

CORDANI: Yeah, from a Cigna standpoint, we don't have a point of view in terms of what lawmakers should be doing. What we have is a point of view in terms of what will create a dynamic and vibrant market and that means we got to get back to putting individuals front and center and we need to talk more than just expanding insurance programs. We need to talk about how do we make sure we improve health.

CORNISH: So, Mr. Cordani, you say it's not about the politics, but how can it help the market for lawmakers to keep litigating this past a ruling?

CORDANI: And as we look at large scale entitlement reform in the United States, there has been a multi-year process that has unfolded. And I'm not saying that it's the right process or not, but I'm trying to be pragmatic relative to that. What we have to do is we have to step back and put the customers' needs front and center and we...

CORNISH: So you're saying this has happened before with other entitlement programs?

CORDANI: It has. If you go back and look at Medicare, Medicare evolved over many years. And I don't think it's helpful to look at anything being complete yet relative to health care reform. We have a good start here.

CORNISH: And, lastly, Mr. Cordani, at the end of the day for people who maybe have Cigna insurance, can they expect their premiums to go up over the next five years as this law is implemented?

CORDANI: Yes. So the vast majority of Cigna's customers today - we're approaching 13 million customers in the United States in terms of traditional medical benefits - over 90 percent of them get their benefits through their employers, through very transparent relationships.

So long as we continue to innovate and engage people around improving their health and lowering their health risks, as well as insuring their sick care needs when they get sick, we'll be able to get to a reasonable outcome in terms of costs.

If we keep the programs exactly as they were two or three years ago, there will be a cost problem. So as a company, we're focusing on innovating and, as long as we innovate, we'll be able to control the costs because there are new additional costs coming down the line that we're going to have to be able to offset with innovation.

CORNISH: So - yes, then premiums will have to go up because there's changes coming with this law?

CORDANI: Premiums will go up and the ability to decrease the amount of premiums going up will be predicated on whether or not you could innovate with your customer and with your physician to drive the premiums back down. We've been able to do that successfully over the last couple of years. We've posted some of the lowest medical cost increases in the industry while delivering some of the highest clinical quality and increasing prevention. So long as we continue to do that, we'll be able to deliver a very good value for our customer.

CORNISH: So a lot of ifs there, Mr. Cordani.

CORDANI: Less ifs and more - we have a proven track record over the last three years of doing it. We need to continue to do that going forward. The if is that if a company does not do that, unequivocally, costs will go up.

CORNISH: David Cordani is president and CEO of Cigna Corporation. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

CORDANI: Thank you for having me today.

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