Category Archives: Cost

Affordable Care Act subsidies – how does your state benefit?

How much does your state benefit from ACA subsidies?

Milliman’s recently published 50-state profile of the individual health insurance market presents nationwide enrollment and subsidy data that can help states better understand the funding and coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The infographic below sheds light on some of the 2017 results, including marketplace enrollment numbers by state, and a closer look at the ACA cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies – for which government funding is currently under legal challenge.

Population health analytics for India’s health insurance industry

In India, recent regulatory changes mandating guaranteed renewability, lifetime coverage and restricted premium revision opportunities imply that any substandard risk in the current portfolio could potentially be retained for life. This necessitates a different approach to managing insurers’ growing portfolios.

This article by Milliman’s Lalit Baveja explains how insurers can benefit from treating their covered members using analytics based on population health principles. Such an approach requires a better clinical understanding of member populations to identify the most effective and cost-efficient strategies for managing members’ health and preventing hospitalizations and claims in the long run.

Milliman Medical Index: Typical American family faces $26,944 in annual healthcare costs

Milliman today released the 2017 Milliman Medical Index (MMI), which measures the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four receiving coverage from an employer-sponsored preferred provider plan (PPO). In 2017, costs for this family will increase by 4.3%—which marks the lowest rate of increase in the history of this study—though the total dollar increase of $1,118 is consistent with the last decade of healthcare cost increases.

“The good news is that we are seeing a record-low 4.3% cost increase in this year’s MMI,” said Chris Girod, coauthor of the Milliman Medical Index. “The bad news: Continuing a 12-year pattern, healthcare costs for a typical family of four this year increased by more than $1,100.”

In recent years, the Milliman Medical Index has reported notable increases in pharmaceutical costs. Last year, drug costs increased by 9.1%. That rate of increase fell to 8% in 2017, which is still more than twice the rate of increase for all other components of healthcare spending.

“We’re seeing a smaller rate of increase for prescription drugs this year,” said Scott Weltz, coauthor of the MMI. “But the longer view reveals a different story. Since we began tracking this data in 2001, prescription drug costs for the typical American family have increased from $1,111 to $4,612.”

This year’s MMI includes analysis of dynamics driving healthcare costs, including the sometimes elusive nature of rebates in drug pricing. While rebates often do not result in cost savings for consumers at the pharmacy, they still impact the larger cost puzzle.

The MMI is unique among health cost studies because it measures the total cost of healthcare services used by the family of four, including out-of-pocket expenses paid at time of service. The MMI also separates costs into portions paid by employer versus employee. This year, the employer pays $15,259 of a family’s total healthcare costs and the employee—through payroll deductions and cost sharing at the time of service—pays $11,685.

“Back in 2001, the first year we measured the MMI, employees paid 39% of healthcare costs,” said Sue Hart, coauthor of the MMI. “This year, the family’s share of healthcare costs reached 43% of the total—an $11,685 total. We’ve seen a long, slow shift toward employees as these plans look to control healthcare costs.”

This year’s MMI includes discussion of the major components of the cost of care—payments to providers and the frequency and type of services used—and how they might vary outside the employer-sponsored system. Different discounts and payment mechanisms in the public markets can impact the costs for private insurers and therefore for the MMI family of four.

To view the complete MMI, click here.

Indian health insurers can benefit from benchmarking administrative costs

Health insurance is the fastest growing segment in India’s nonlife insurance sector. Health insurance costs are also increasing quickly. According to Milliman’s Lalit Baveja, insurers in the market should consider the benefits of administrative savings as a larger part of a cost containment strategy.

Administrative costs, customer acquisition costs and benefit payment (in the form of claims payouts) are the three key expense areas for insurers. Going forward, the importance of managing administrative expenses will increase as competition continues to put pressure on overall premiums. In line with other markets, the Indian regulator also restricts the percentage of premium income that can be used as management expenses to promote efficiency and the availability of funds for benefit payments after a defined inception period. Insurers themselves have a vested interest in keeping these costs manageable. Topline focus must be complemented with cost containment in both benefits and administrative costs to achieve desired profitability and sustainability. While claims cost containment requires effective provider contracting and optimal utilisation management (and is reliant on multiple providers and other intermediaries), acquisition costs are dictated by market forces. Administrative efficiency within internal operations is one area where an insurance company can effectuate changes more directly. Tracking and managing these administrative costs can be a challenge, and identification of areas where there is opportunity to optimise administrative spending can be an even greater challenge.

Lalit discusses how benchmarking is an effective tool that can help health insurers manage their administrative efficiencies and expenses. To learn more, read his article “Administrative benchmarks for health insurance in India.”

Price transparency considerations

Increased price transparency from healthcare providers may help individuals become better consumers and reduce overall healthcare costs. However, some studies indicate that more price transparency may actually increases costs. In this article, Milliman’s Shyam Kolli explores the forces driving the need for price transparency. He also discusses potential ways to improve transparency.

The potential cost of gene therapy may surprise payers

An estimated 80% of rare diseases are genetic. For patients diagnosed with rare genetic diseases, gene therapies may offer an adequate treatment option. However, gene therapies may be costly for payers using the current payment models in the U.S. healthcare system. Milliman actuaries Anne Jackson and Jessica Naber discuss the issue in the article “The future is now: Are payers ready for gene therapies?