One month after it produced a projection of factors affecting 2014 premiums in California’s individual health insurance market segment for the Golden State’s health benefits exchange, Covered California, the actuarial consulting firm Milliman has issued a similar study with a national focus. Like its analysis of the California market, Milliman’s review examined the impact of new coverage requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well as individuals opting to “buy up” to plans with richer benefits, premium and benefit subsidies and the underlying upward trend in the cost of medical treatment. It was commissioned by America’s Health Insurance Plans.
Milliman’s national study took into account additional factors including new taxes and fees on health plan issuers and premium stabilization programs including a transitional reinsurance program to protect plans from unexpectedly high care costs. It concludes “average individual market pre-subsidy premiums are anticipated to increase significantly from what standard rates are today.” It adds advance tax credit premium subsidies for coverage purchased through state benefit exchanges for those earning 400 percent or lower of the federal poverty level will produce “significant reductions from current premium levels.”
The Milliman study projects that Affordable Care Act changes in the individual risk pool and adverse selection — largely due to the law’s ban on medical underwriting of individuals looking to purchase or upgrade coverage — will have the largest impact on premiums. Those factors including the potential for younger, healthier individuals to remain in plans issued prior to 2014 and sicker people opting for 2014 plans with more extensive coverage could increase premiums by 20 to 45 percent, according to Milliman.
The study raises a red flag over the law’s restriction on the use of age as a rating factor for older individuals, predicting it will boost premiums for younger people and thus potentially drive adverse selection if they opt to forgo coverage until they need it — notwithstanding the Affordable Care Act’s tax penalties for not having some form of health coverage. “For the individual market risk pool to remain a stable market in 2014 and beyond, it is vital that young and healthy individuals enter and remain in the insurance market in addition to individuals with an immediate need for healthcare services,” the study concludes.
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