Category Archives: Reform

America’s relationship status with healthcare: It’s complicated

Financing and regulating healthcare in the United States is complicated. Fortunately, actuaries understand the intricacies and can provide unique perspectives to address the system’s complex challenges. In the article “Healthcare: It’s complicated,” Milliman’s Hans Leida and Lindsy Kotecki discuss issues related to reform which actuaries have helped navigate.

Here is an excerpt:

Besides predictability problems caused by regulatory or political factors, two challenges facing health actuaries during these transitional years have been (1) the lag between when market changes are implemented and when data on policies subject to the new rules becomes available, and (2) the difficulty in predicting consumer behaviour in reaction to major changes in market rules such as guaranteed issue and community rating. How many of the uninsured would sign up? How price-sensitive would members be when they renewed their coverage each year? How will changes in other sources of coverage (such as Medicaid expansion) impact the individual market? How will potential actions by competitors affect an insurer’s risk?

Despite the daunting nature of these challenges, actuaries have, out of necessity, found ways to try to address them. For example, faced with the data lag problem, they explored ways to augment traditional claim and enrollment data with new data sources such as marketing databases or pharmacy history data available for purchase. Such sources can be used to develop estimates of the health status of new populations not previously covered by an insurer. Many actuaries also developed agent-based stochastic simulation models that attempted to model the behaviour of consumers, insurers and other stakeholders in these new markets. Such models continue to be used to evaluate the potential outcomes of future changes to the healthcare system, and will probably be essential should efforts to repeal and replace the ACA prove successful.

The old and the beautiful: How age and gender affect costs and premiums in commercial healthcare

We generally consider living a long life an important goal, and it certainly does beat the alternative. But one side effect of getting older is that, as we age, we typically acquire additional acute and chronic medical conditions, and the prevalence of many common chronic medical conditions increases significantly. Age/gender rating is an area in which actuarial considerations are often in direct tension with social or public policy considerations: there is a natural tension between the policy goals of making coverage more affordable for older people (with higher average costs) and the goal of encouraging younger people (with lower average costs) to purchase health insurance coverage.

In an article first published in the magazine The Actuary, Milliman consultants Doug Norris, Hans Leida, Erica Rode, and Travis (T.J.) Gray explore how age and gender affect costs and premiums in commercial healthcare.

Introducing the SSIP: Provisions for market stabilization in the Better Care Reconciliation Act

On June 22, the U.S. Senate released its draft of a bill to amend portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The State Stability and Innovation Program (SSIP), part of the BCRA, is a grant program that provides funds directly to insurers as well as to states with the primary goal to stabilize and support the individual market. The SSIP is composed of two distinct parts. The first provides funds for short-term market stabilization programs that will go directly to insurance carriers in the first four years of the program. The second provides funds for the “Long-term SSIP,” which will be allocated to states starting in 2019 to fund various programs.

This paper by Milliman’s Thomas Murawski discusses elements of the SSIP and outlines the details from the draft bill released on June 22.

How capitation arrangements can be applied to deliver the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans

Capitation arrangements are traditionally used as an alternative to fee-for-service reimbursement to facilitate a transfer of risk from the funder to providers of healthcare services. The objective of introducing risk sharing between funders and providers is to encourage the delivery of efficient and patient-centred care by incentivising the integration of services and minimising unwarranted variation in care. This paper by Milliman’s Joanne Buckle and Tanya Hayward explores how the principles of a traditional capitation arrangement may apply in a regional National Health Service system where the stakeholder roles differ and the implementation of various key capitation principles is not possible.

How do cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies affect your state?

The fate of the CSR subsidies in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—or rather, whether they’ll continue to be federally funded—is a highly anticipated decision for healthcare stakeholders nationwide. Cost-sharing reduction subsidies are payments made to insurers that reduce copays and deductibles for qualifying individuals and families earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) who purchase health insurance through the insurance marketplaces. Their government funding is currently under legal challenge, awaiting the White House’s decision whether or not to drop the House v. Price lawsuit.

Recently, Politico.com reported that Republicans are inching closer to a decision regarding the fate of CSR funding. As this decision will affect healthcare stakeholders in every state, it is important for policymakers to understand the health and stability of the individual market and how subsidies have affected health insurance consumers. Recently, my colleagues and I at Milliman prepared a profile of the individual health insurance market for each state along with the District of Columbia. The profile summarizes insurer financials, marketplace enrollment, and federal assistance provided to households purchasing insurance coverage through the insurance marketplaces.

We’ve compiled some of our 2017 data into an infographic that takes a closer look at ACA cost-sharing subsidies to enable stakeholders to better understand the population currently receiving assistance and the amount of assistance being provided. The graphic looks at two metrics: the estimated average annual CSR subsidy per qualifying individual and the number of individuals receiving CSRs by state in 2017. Results below provide a clearer picture of which states’ populations more heavily rely on CSR subsidies and by how much. Florida has the largest number of CSR recipients of any state, with approximately 1 million recipients in 2017. On a national level, we estimate that there are 5.7 million individuals covered by CSR subsidies nationally, and the sum of federal CSR expenditures will exceed $5.8 billion in CY 2017.

Cost-sharing reduction

More data and analysis can be found at Milliman.com/hcr.

This blog post first appeared on LinkedIn.

Budget proposal may effect Social Security Disability Insurance

President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal includes potential changes to several Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs. If approved, these changes could affect claimants, state agencies, insurance companies, and/or employers. The Milliman Insight article “President Trump’s budget proposal calls for disability changes” by Jennifer Fleck explores the financial and administrative implications related to the proposed changes for each of these groups.

Here is an excerpt:

It is not yet clear which of the proposed changes are likely to proceed nor which can be considered benefit cuts as opposed to administrative changes intended to manage the existing program more closely. However, the potential impact is significant for many different constituencies.

• Current claimants or applicants now waiting for their claim decisions could be affected through reduced retroactive payments, increased opportunities for rehabilitation, or potential shifting of the payer of their benefits.
• State agencies should pay close attention to the proposed changes as they could require additional services be performed at the state level.
• Insurance carriers could be required to pay additional benefits to private insurance claimants as costs are shifted. Currently, group insurers offset their payments for SSDI benefits, so reduced SSDI benefits will result in higher payments from insurance companies. This has the additional impact of raising premium rates for everyone who has group disability insurance.
• Employers could be affected by cost shifting of workers’ compensation benefit offsets or by being required to accommodate more employees returning to work from disability. Employers could also face the higher premium payments mentioned above or could have higher benefit costs directly if they self-insure. This could discourage employers from offering coverage, cause a shifting of the cost to the employees, or encourage them to offer lower benefit amounts. A benefit to employers could be a larger potential workforce to draw from.