Health-Care Law Will Boost Premiums: Aetna CEO

Insurance premiums will rise under the new health-care legislation because people will opt for more expensive procedures, Aetna CEO and Chairman Ron Williams told CNBC.

“Premiums will rise as a function of different components … such as do consumers use more intensive services, like getting a pet scan instead of an MRI?" Williams said in a live interview.

A pet scan is a major diagnostic procedure used in determining the presence and severity of cancer, neurological conditions and cardiovascular disease.

When pressed on how much premiums will go up, the Aetna executive said he “couldn’t give an exact number.” He added the new bill gives insurers “the real opportunity to get back to focusing on affordability.”

Williams said the main avenue to affordability will be “paying for an activity rather than paying for an outcome itself. We need to get back to paying for the (overall) population not for each activity."

He said the changes won’t involve writing new contracts but rather how physicians adapt to a new "practice style" over a number of years.

The legislation, which President Obama signed last month to provide coverage for tens of millions more people, would place more restrictions on insurers in regard to pre-existing conditions and their ability to drop policyholders because they are ill.

Williams did not think the reforms would immediately increase the number of new entrants into the insurance pool because it is being phased in through 2018.