Tag Archive: large group market

Obamacare rates to rise 4% in California for 2016 – LA Times

Defying dire predictions about health insurance rate shock across the country, California’s Obamacare exchange negotiated a 4% average rate increase for the second year in a row.The modest increase for 2016, announced Monday, may be welcome news for many of the 1.3 million Californians who buy individual policies through the state marketplace, known as Covered California.California’s rates are a key barometer of how the Affordable Care Act is working nationwide, and the state’s performance is sure to be hotly debated among supporters and foes of the healthcare law, including the current crop of presidential candidates.

Source: Obamacare rates to rise 4% in California for 2016 – LA Times

What’s notable about this figure is it is lower than the closely watched barometer of CalPERS health plan cost trends for large group health plans that have traditionally had less rate volatility and lower increases than individual plans such as those sold through Covered California.

By comparison to the four percent increase for 2016 Covered California plans, HMO plans for California state and local government employees and their dependents are set to increase on average by 7.2 percent next year and 10.8 percent for PPO plans.

However in Northern California, Covered California plans will on average track the CalPERS statewide average. According to Covered California, premiums in that half of the state will rise by an average of seven percent for plan year 2016.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Concerns over large group plan exchange option overblown

Concern is being raised that a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision allowing large group plans (defined as those offered to employers of 101 or more beginning in 2017) to offer plans on state health benefit exchanges could disrupt the large group market. The basis of the concern is an ACA requirement at Public Health Service Act Section 2701(a)(5). The section would apply the ACA’s mandate on individual and small group plans, requiring they use modified community-based rating (rather than risk rating) to large group plans in those states that elect to allow large group plans to be sold via their health benefit exchange marketplace:

(5) SPECIAL RULE FOR LARGE GROUP MARKET.—As revised by section 10103(a). If a State permits health insurance issuers that offer coverage in the large group market in the State to offer such coverage through the State Exchange (as provided for under section 1312(f)(2)(B) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), the provisions of this subsection shall apply to all coverage offered in such market (other than self-insured group health plans offered in such market) in the State.

My impression is this concern is overblown. It’s both unlikely that states will be interested in bringing large group plans into their exchange marketplace or that large group plans would want to participate. The Affordable Care Act’s enhanced risk spreading mechanisms contained in market rules and the exchange marketplace needed in the individual and small group markets are less necessary for large group plans that already benefit from greater scale and spread of risk. In addition, a robust private exchange marketplace is springing up to offer large employers more opportunity to create even larger pools and greater spread of risk.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Interest in private exchange marketplace heats up

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s creation of the state health benefit exchange marketplace is aimed at restoring functionality to the individual and small group markets. By the time the Affordable Care Act was enacted in early 2010, these segments were inescapably mired in an adverse selection death spiral. Premiums grew unaffordable and carriers lost the ability to spread risk as state risk pools shrank. The exchange marketplace seeks to remedy this by scaling up the size of the pool and providing a demand aggregation mechanism that with sufficient enrollment can achieve better spread of risk and, in turn, lower premium rates.

The Affordable Care Act does not initially offer the demand aggregation mechanism of the public exchange marketplace for large employers but gives states the option of opening their exchanges to large employers in 2017. However, large employers seeking relief from rising employee health care costs aren’t about to wait. Instead, they are looking at private exchanges being formed by benefit consulting firms serving large employers. Several large employers participating in a private exchange could potentially cover many thousands of people and bring them into the pool far faster than state exchanges that have to enroll individuals and small employers one at a time.  Private exchanges also make it easier for big employers to adopt defined contribution-based health benefits in which employees would select from a larger number of plans than might otherwise be offered by a single employer. Media coverage this week of burgeoning interest in the private exchange marketplace can be viewed here and here.

While large employers of relatively highly paid full time workers find the private exchange marketplace of interest to reduce the cost of covering their workforces, those with low wage, part time staff are looking to the state exchange marketplace. It provides a means for these employers to reduce their health care outgo by sending part time workers (defined in the ACA as having an average work week of less than 30 hours) to purchase individual plans sold on the state exchanges and subsidized by advance income tax credits. Two such employers – specialty grocer Trader Joe’s and Home Depot –indicated in recent days they would take this route.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Decision to delay employer mandate will cause more employers to drop coverage | LifeHealthPro

What Hilgers is referring to is the fact that offering coverage that is affordable for the employee blocks all “related individuals” — generally, the spouse and tax dependent children — from accessing a government subsidy. And the bar hasn’t been set very high: if the employee would not have to pay more than 9.5% of his household income for his portion of the single (employee-only) premium on the employer’s plan, his entire family is firewalled off from getting the subsidy.

It really doesn’t make any sense. The IRS has concluded that congressional intent was to block these individuals from obtaining the tax credits. Instead of basing the affordability determination on the cost of the family premium, they’re basing it only on what the employee would pay, which means that coverage will be considered affordable for most employees and their family members will be locked into the employer’s plan, even if it’s significantly more expensive and the employer isn’t contributing to the dependent premiums.

Many experts believe that, as employees learn how the tax credits work, they may ask their employers to stop offering health insurance altogether so that they can afford coverage for their families. And a lot of employers won’t have to be asked twice.

via Decision to delay employer mandate will cause more employers to drop coverage | LifeHealthPro.

This analysis — which is relevant to large employers with large numbers of low wage employees — suggests the delay in enforcement of the employer mandate combined with the so-called “kid glitch” will spur enrollments in the individual health benefit exchange marketplace for plan year 2014.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Rising costs prompt Wal-Mart to scale back health coverage

Cost pressures in group health coverage segment have prompted the nation’s largest employer to scale back coverage for its work force and increase employee cost sharing.

Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the decision to deny coverage to new part-time employees resulted from the company’s revamping of its health care offerings in light of rising costs.

“Over the last few years, we’ve all seen our health care rates increase and it’s probably not a surprise that this year will be no different,” Mr. Rossiter said. “We made the difficult decision to raise rates that will affect our associates’ medical costs. The decisions made were not easy, but they strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.”

The full New York Times story is here.

Wal-Mart isn’t representative of the large group market given its large number of part time and low wage workers.  However this development shows that rising medical costs are rapidly chipping away at the availability of employer-based coverage in the large group market just as has occurred in the small group market.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Rising HMO premiums hint at adverse selection

The large group health insurance market is rearranging itself along the lines of medical utilization with those using more medical services opting for managed care HMO plans and those using fewer services opting for lower cost, high deductible PPO and POS plans.  Premium rates are adjusting to this higher utilization, with HMO members expected to see a 9.8 percent bump in 2011, the highest rate increase since 2006’s 10 percent hike, according to a report issued this week by Aon Hewitt.

Since HMOs provide richer benefits but at a higher cost, they are preferred by employees who use health care more often and need coverage that is more robust. “Having a higher mix of these plan participants in HMO plans raises the risk pool, which can drive costs higher,” Aon Hewitt notes. In other words, adverse selection.  Once the trend of adverse selection becomes entrenched, the risk pool enters a death spiral of fewer insureds to share costs, requiring big premium increases that speed depopulation of the pool.

Large employers are apparently already feeling those higher prices — and it could ultimately lead to contraction of the large group HMO market, Aon Hewitt warns. “Employers continue to be successful in reducing HMO rate increases by a few percentage points through aggressive negotiations with health plans, changes in plan designs and employee cost sharing,” said Jeff Smith, a principal and leader of Aon Hewitt’s HMO rate analysis project. “Still, these increases have been very difficult for employers to absorb, particularly this year when many companies are focused on economic recovery and complying with health care reform. If HMO rates continue to outpace average health care cost increases, employers may elect to take even more aggressive steps in the coming years, such as eliminating HMO plans altogether.”

This looks like yet another sign of the end of the rich, all inclusive employer provided health coverage of recent decades and a revival of major medical coverage for hospitalizations and other high cost services and not routine or minor ones.

 

The large group health insurance market is rearranging itself along the lines of medical utilization with those using more medical services opting for managed care HMO plans and those using fewer services opting for lower cost, high deductible PPO and POS plans.  Premium rates are adjusting to this higher utilization, with HMO members expected to see a 9.8 percent bump in 2011, the highest rate increase since 2006’s 10 percent hike, according to a report issued this week by Aon Hewitt.

 

Since HMOs provide richer benefits but at a higher cost, they are preferred by employees who use health care more often and need coverage that is more robust. “Having a higher mix of these plan participants in HMO plans raises the risk pool, which can drive costs higher,” Aon Hewitt notes. In other words, adverse selection.  Once the trend of adverse selection becomes entrenched, the risk pool enters a death spiral of fewer insureds to share costs, requiring big premium increases that speed depopulation of the pool.

 

Large employers are apparently already feeling those higher prices — and it could ultimately lead to contraction of the large group HMO market, Aon Hewitt warns. “Employers continue to be successful in reducing HMO rate increases by a few percentage points through aggressive negotiations with health plans, changes in plan designs and employee cost sharing,” said Jeff Smith, a principal and leader of Aon Hewitt’s HMO rate analysis project. “Still, these increases have been very difficult for employers to absorb, particularly this year when many companies are focused on economic recovery and complying with health care reform. If HMO rates continue to outpace average health care cost increases, employers may elect to take even more aggressive steps in the coming years, such as eliminating HMO plans altogether.”

 

This looks like another sign of the end of the rich, all inclusive employer provided health coverage of recent decades and a revival of major medical coverage for hospitalizations and other high cost services and not routine or minor ones.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

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