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Risk Adjustment Reinsurance Improved Financial Outcomes For Individual Market Insurers With The Highest Claims

Author: Paul D. Jacobs, Michael L. Cohen, Patricia Keenan
$15.00

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) reformed the individual health insurance market. Because insurers can no longer vary their offers of coverage based on applicants’ health status, the ACA established a risk adjustment program to equalize health-related cost differences across plans. The ACA also established a temporary reinsurance program to subsidize high-cost claims. To assess the impact of these programs, we compared revenues to claims costs for insurers in the individual market during the first two years of ACA implementation (2014 and 2015), before and after the inclusion of risk adjustment and reinsurance payments. Before these payments were included, for the 30 percent of insurers with the highest claims costs, claims (not including administrative expenses) exceeded premium revenues by $90–$397 per enrollee per month. The effect was reversed after these payments were included, with revenues exceeding claims costs by $0–$49 per month. The risk adjustment and reinsurance programs were relatively well targeted in the first two years. While there is ongoing discussion regarding the future of the ACA, our findings can shed light on how risk-sharing programs can address risk selection among insurers—a pervasive issue in all health insurance markets.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) reformed the individual health insurance market. Because insurers can no longer vary their offers of coverage based on applicants’ health status, the ACA established a risk adjustment program to equalize health-related cost differences across plans. The ACA also established a temporary reinsurance program to subsidize high-cost claims. To assess the impact of these programs, we compared revenues to claims costs for insurers in the individual market during the first two years of ACA implementation (2014 and 2015), before and after the inclusion of risk adjustment and reinsurance payments. Before these payments were included, for the 30 percent of insurers with the highest claims costs, claims (not including administrative expenses) exceeded premium revenues by $90–$397 per enrollee per month. The effect was reversed after these payments were included, with revenues exceeding claims costs by $0–$49 per month. The risk adjustment and reinsurance programs were relatively well targeted in the first two years. While there is ongoing discussion regarding the future of the ACA, our findings can shed light on how risk-sharing programs can address risk selection among insurers—a pervasive issue in all health insurance markets.

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