When envisioning what public insurance exchanges of the future can and should look like when it comes to technology and structure, one only needs to look at the successful private exchanges that have paved the way over the past several years.
This experience has taught those who administer private exchanges that open enrollment—the phase that the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace is struggling through currently—is only the beginning. Public exchanges could benefit from lessons already mastered by private exchanges—starting with open enrollment but extending to even more complex technology-based transactions.
There are 10 scenarios that vendors must be able to handle.
1. Life Events. In today’s individual Health Insurance marketplace, consumers can generally add or drop coverage for themselves or their dependents anytime they want. In other words, it’s a relatively “rule-free world.” In January 2014, that world changes to look more like the current group health marketplace in which many rules are defined by the federal government’s existing tax code (e.g., Section 125) and HIPAA requirements, and consumers must select and “lock in” their coverage once a year for the following 12 months, unless they experience a qualified life event.
As a result, each qualified life event – e.g., marriage, divorce, birth of a child, loss of spouse’s coverage and many more – must be configurable within the Exchange technology to enforce the appropriate rules. For example, if a person gets married, is that person allowed to drop coverage or change plans and carriers? How about with the birth of a child? Or with a loss of spouse’s coverage? For a truly scalable Exchange technology, thousands of scenarios must be configured in advance to enable consumers to make enrollment choices online without administrator involvement.
Continue reading “What Public Insurance Exchanges Will Look Like 5 Years From Now”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Plans, Open Enrollment, Robert Gallun, the business of healthcare
Dec 4, 2013
People can be blinded by dreams in many spheres.
Many people who remain basically positive about the Affordable Care Act are viewing the enrollment statistics like the football fan whose team is 2-6 and who point out that the team could win 7 out of its 8 remaining games and still probably make the playoffs.
Yes, getting off to a really bad start doesn’t preclude a happy ending. Success may still be mathematically possible. But unless there’s good reason to think that the fundamental factors such as poor coaching, poor game plans or unexpected injuries that have led to the bad start no longer apply, the more reasonable prediction is that things will continue more or less as they have.
It’s time to start thinking realistically about what happens if a core component of the Affordable Care Act, subsidized, non-underwritten health insurance available from private insurers, essentially fails to provide many with better access to medical care. This might not happen in every state — there might be a few whose Exchanges can be deemed “successful” — but it is looking more and more to me as if we are heading for enrollments in many states well, well short of that on which the arguments for the ACA were significantly premised.
Indeed, some supporters of the ACA have started moving the goal posts, revising history to say that the real goal of the Act wasn’t to reduce the number of uninsureds but to have an actuarially sound pool. (So the purpose of the Act was to help insurance companies stay afloat?) And it hardly helps enrollment when President Obama urges his allies to hold back enrollment efforts so the insurance marketplace does not collapse this coming week under a crush of new users even after he earlier assured the nation healthcare.gov was supposed to be working much better by this time.
For purposes of this blog entry, I’m going to assume that enrollment in the Exchanges ends up being about 2 million for 2014 instead of the projected 7 million. I can’t rigorously justify that number — but, of course, neither could the pundit who is now saying 4 million. And, if I had time and space I’d prefer to do this analysis under a variety of scenarios, but, for now, the 2 million figure feels about right. And if I were betting on which side of the 2 million we will fall, it would be the lower side. What are the consequences? I can’t address all of them in a single blog entry — and trying to predict matters past 2014 gets very treacherous — but here are some.
And, for those of you who don’t want to read further, here’s the headline:
Insurance sold through Exchanges without medical underwriting — a central promise of the Affordable Care Act — is likely to implode in a significant number of states by 2015 while limping along in several others but providing little net desired decrease in the number of people without quality health insurance. The silver lining in this failure will be that the program will likely cost less than projected due to fewer number of people receiving subsidies, although this reduction will be partly offset by higher-than-projected subsidies to the insurance industry. Expect significant pressure to grow among supporters of the Affordable Care Act to use these net savings to increase the subsidies available to people buying coverage through the Exchanges and to lure insurers in the problem states back into the Exchanges.
Continue reading “The Two Million Scenario: What if the Affordable Care Act enrolls a lot fewer people in the Exchanges than predicted?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: enrollment numbers, Health Plans, Seth J. Chandler, Subsidies, The Affordable Care Act
Nov 30, 2013
A THCB reader from Colorado writes in:
“I am an individual health insurance purchaser in Colorado. I know I need to buy my policy through the Colorado exchange if I want to get a possible subsidy. I am not likely to be eligible for a subsidy, however, and I found that it’s also possible to buy policies “off” the exchange. I briefly looked at some of those policies and found similar premiums, copays, and deductibles to policies “on” the exchange. I assume the “off-exchange” policies must also be as ACA-compliant as the exchange policies.
Given all these similarities, what is the DIFFERENCE between “on”-exchange and “off”-exchange policies?
In the ACA, what purpose do the two categories serve?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Health Plans, Off Exchange, On Exchange, THCBist
Nov 23, 2013
Here is what the President said at the American Medical Association Meeting in July, 2009––and likely lots more times:
“No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, your will keep your health plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what. My view is that health care reform should be guided by a simple principle: fix what’s broken and build on what works.”
We have all heard this repeated many times before in recent weeks. But with the front-page story in the Washington Post yesterday, “Health Insurers Limit Choices to Keep Costs Down,” it’s as if somebody rang a new bell this time focused on the “you will keep your doctor” part.
It’s not like we haven’t been talking about more narrow networks becoming a staple of the new health insurance exchanges.
It is as if some of this stuff is just starting to sink in.
Why the limited networks?
In the old health insurance market, insurers competed for business through price and plan design. Network size has historically been a minor factor with consumers and employer plan sponsors expecting to be able to use about any doctor or hospital, especially those with the best reputations.
But with the Affordable Care Act, health plans lost two of their historically big plan pricing variables; medical underwriting and plan design.
Under Obamacare, insurers can no longer underwrite, or exclude people, to keep the cost of their individual market health insurance plans down––a good thing.
Under Obamacare, insurers can no longer offer a wide variety of health insurance products in the individual health market––a good thing when it gets rid of the worst of the health plans out there but not such a good thing when it gets rid of the many policies people could choose and have liked and are now mad about losing. Now, all health plans have to fit into four strict boxes: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. And, these boxes can only differ by out-of-pocket costs––not benefits.
So, if a health plan can no longer vary its benefit choices, how can it distinguish itself on price?
Continue reading “The Real Reason You May Not Be Able to Keep Your Doctor Under the New Healthcare Law”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Health Plans, Healthcare.gov, Provider networks, Robert Laszewski, The Affordable Care Act
Nov 22, 2013
Obamacare is impacting the small group insurance market in many of the same ways as the individual health insurance market. While employers with less than 50 workers don’t have to provide coverage, if they do they are required to comply with the same essential benefit mandates, age rating changes, and pre-existing condition reforms the individual market faces.
That means essentially all small group policies cannot continue as they are––they have to be discontinued.
What makes things a bit easier, if not any less expensive, is that small employers typically have health insurance brokers to run interference for them and help them through this change where individual consumers often get that dreaded cancellation letter telling them they will not have health insurance after a certain date if they do not act quickly in what is a confusing marketplace in the best of times.
The first small group renewals are now occurring––the January 1 renewals that typically have to be delivered during the month of November under state law.
Many employers are facing significant changes in order to comply with Obamacare and therefore price increases. One Maryland broker I spoke to this week has 90 small group accounts and he reports his smallest increase was 15%, his largest was 69%, and most are in the 30% – 40% range.
(By comparison, Mercer just announced the average large employer health care cost increase for 2014 will be 5.2%, meaning small groups could have reasonably expected an increase under 10% without Obamacare.) The biggest rate increases are generally going to those employers with the youngest groups the most impacted by the new “age compression” rules.
Does this mean these small employers’ coverage has been outright cancelled and they will now send their workers to the exchanges, as I have heard some commentators argue?
No, at least not anytime soon.
But that does not mean that lots of these small employers aren’t angry and confused.
What are these small employers doing?
Continue reading “The Next Shoe to Drop: Small Group Health Insurance Cancellations”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Employers, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Plans, Robert Laszewski, Small Business, The Affordable Care Act
Nov 21, 2013
There’s still time. Much of the sensationalistic coverage since October has completely missed the point, argue defenders. THCB reader Hiro Kawashima had this to say:
“What became clear is that President Obama’s most formidable enemy isn’t the Republican Party, angry insurers or antsy Congressional Democrats; it is time. The PPACA is running against the clock and what the PPACA needs most is time to work. Even before the bill was signed into law, it was clear that the true financial benefit of PPACA would not be realized for a decade. Each failure, each negative portrayal and each angry consumer shaves an additional second off the clock. The President’s proposed administrative fix will buy time for the White House to get the healthcare.gov website working and regain control of the narrative.
If none of the reasons above made any sense to you, here is an analogy from President Obama:
One way I described this to — I met with a group of senators when this issue first came up — and it’s not a perfect analogy — but we made a decision as a society that every car has to have a seatbelt or airbags. And so you pass a regulation. And there are some additional costs, particularly at the start of increasing the safety and protections, but we make a decision as a society that the costs are outweighed by the benefits of all the lives that are saved. So what we’re saying now is if you’re buying a new car, you got to have a seatbelt.
Well, the problem with the grandfather clause that we put in place is it’s almost like we said to folks, you got to buy a new car, even if you can’t afford it right now. And sooner or later, folks are going to start trading in their old cars. But we don’t need — if their life circumstance is such where, for now at least, they want to keep the old car, even if the new car is better, we should be able to give them that option. And that’s what we want to do.”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Health Plans, Healthcare.gov, Obamacare Fix, The Affordable Care Act
Nov 20, 2013
Life was getting underway the day I found a suspicious lump. My first book had just been published and was being received well in my field. I was traveling and speaking about a new research project. The phone kept ringing and there was little time to think.
I figured that was the reason why my weight was falling. It was one of those good side benefits of a busy schedule. Why worry about a pea-sized lump? Lots of women have those and they turn out to be nothing. Coincidentally, that was exactly what my gynecologist said it was: nothing but a cyst.
Two more visits to that doctor resulted in him telling me that, at my age and with my family history, there was nothing to worry about and I should get on with life. He refused my request for a mammogram, suggesting that I should relax. I gave relaxation a try until a friend told me, “You look bad. If you don’t go see your GP for another opinion, I’m not going to talk to you.” There were dark lines under my eyes and I was becoming tired and downright skinny. I took her advice. It was cancer.
When I read about young people declining to sign up for health insurance, I remember back to that time. Sure, it’s great to be young. One of the best things is thinking you have a long time before you need to worry about your body giving you major problems. And isn’t life a gamble anyway?
I’m sure many young people reason this way and to some extent they’re right. Having spent a significant part of my career studying how people reason about health, it’s no surprise to me that weighing the odds causes a good many of us to take risks.
Yet, there is no such thing as a “young invincible,” the term currently bandied about to describe adults under the age of 35.
It’s not their fault if the system is unresponsive when they attempt to learn their insurance options. But it is their responsibility, to themselves and their families, to make sure that if something does go wrong — as it often does — their insurance will afford them the care that could save their lives.
Continue reading “Think You’re Young and Invincible? You’re Young, Yes. Invincible? Maybe Not.”
Filed Under: OP-ED
Tagged: Cancer, Health insurance, Health Plans, Kathleen Reardon, The Affordable Care Act, Young Invincibles
Nov 18, 2013
Last week President Obama announced that he will try to keep his oft repeated promise to Americans in the individual market that they can keep their plans if they like them … for a year. The media have done an excellent job explaining why President Obama’s temporary patch to the ACA may endanger its existence; in the process the American public has learned more than it ever wanted to about adverse selection, cream skimming, and most importantly crass politics.
Though the full costs of adverse selection will be muted in the first year by risk corridors and reinsurance, it is clear that the failing website, the bad press, and the recently announced delay are placing maximal stress on even those backup provisions of the bill.
Even if the ACA survives this additional insult against the economics that support its very existence, we have witnessed yet another missed opportunity for positive reform to President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. And this time we can’t just blame intransigent tea-party Republicans and their quixotic efforts at repeal; here the buck stops at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW.
While many of the plans that are affected by the President’s temporary patch might actually be plans that don’t qualify as “insurance” (i.e. they have low lifetime caps on expenditures or don’t cover hospital services), numerous others actually offer quite good coverage that just don’t meet the exceptionally high standards of the newly developed minimum essential health benefit (EHB).
In many ways, the first dollar coverage for preventive care and the wide ranging number of services covered by the ACA aren’t truly insurance either. Instead, these features amount to a very generous pre-payment plan for medical services supported by the United States treasury.
These elements of the EHB are too costly and unnecessary. Perhaps even more concerning, they are just the ante. As time goes on, vested interests for everything not included in the EHB will work tirelessly to insure that their favorite benefits are included. If you want evidence of this eventuality, you need look no further than the remarkably long and growing list of benefits mandated by most states.
Keep in mind that as the EHB grows more generous the premiums and subsidies on the exchanges will also grow. And we know who will pay their “fair share” of those increases.
Continue reading “The Real Fix? The Exchanges Aren’t Working. Here’s Why …”
Filed Under: Economics, Health Plans, THCB
Tagged: Craig Garthwaite, David Dranove, Essential health benefits, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Plans, Obama administration, Obamacare Fix, The Affordable Care Act
Nov 18, 2013
I’m hearing a lot of the lazy “but what are the political implication” perpetual horse race questions from the media about recent developments surrounding the Affordable Care Act. That’s fun Inside-the-Beltway stuff, but in the mean time there are real people who are likely to be helped and hurt with matters as essential as their health. So, what I am not hearing enough of yet, however, are tough, substantive questions that get to the heart of whether the Affordable Care Act is going to be stillborn.
Here are some questions that I think intelligent journalists and blogger ought to be asking in light of recent developments with the Affordable Care Act. Getting answers in many cases may take persistent questioning and closer scrutiny of existing documents. In others, FOIA requests may be needed.
1. Actual v. Anticipated Age Distributions in the Exchanges
What is the age distribution by state and in the aggregate of persons who it is claimed have enrolled in Exchange-based plans under the Affordable Care Act? Once we have this data, we can compare it to (a) census data on the age distributions in the various states and (b) any prior estimates on what the age distribution of Exchange enrollees would be such as those described in this government document.
If there is a significant difference between the age distribution encountered thus far and the anticipated age distribution, that increases the probability of the ACA succumbing to an adverse selection death spiral.
Continue reading “Five Questions Journalists Should Be Asking About the Affordable Care Act”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: CBO, consumer driven health, Grandfather Fix, Health Plans, Premiums, Risk adjustment, risk corridors, Seth Chandler, Seth J. Chandler, The Affordable Care Act
Nov 16, 2013
Through a bad roll of the genetic dice, I am the unhappy host for several, rare chronic diseases. Any one of these would render me uninsurable, but the combination of them makes me incurable, and very difficult to treat. The deadliest thing that I can encounter is a well-intentioned but uninformed doctor.
I have currently have excellent insurance through my husband’s job that allows me to see my varied team of treating physicians. Two are in other states, and the rest are all heads of their departments, but none share a hospital or healthcare group. If my husband were to lose his job, I would be placed into the “high-risk-pool,” if there were any slots left, or forced onto the exchanges where my physician options would be cut significantly.
I would likely be forced to pay for healthcare coverage that I cannot use, since many doctors have been unwilling to even attempt to treat me, despite my “Cadillac” insurance plan.
I would likely have to pay cash to see my current team of physicians, which would be a tremendous financial burden on my family and likely end in bankruptcy.
I was cautiously optimistic when I heard of the end of the pre-existing condition exclusions for health insurance, but the current law will not help me at all. It does not expand my insurance options, it will definitely NOT be less expensive than what I have now, and if I am forced to see a well intentioned, overworked and uninformed (or even distracted) doctor, it just might kill me.
BTW: I am NOT disabled, and do not take any form of government assistance. I have owned my own business and paid that higher tax bracket for over 20 years.”
If you’ve had a bad or good experience attempting to buy health insurance on the state or federal exchanges, we’d like to know about it. Drop us a note.
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Plans, high-risk pools, THCBist, The Affordable Care Act
Nov 2, 2013