Utilization in Indiana

A new article in Modern Healthcare looks at the Healthy Indiana Plan, a Medicaid expansion program that has yielded some interesting results. Here’s an excerpt from the Modern Healthcare piece:

While the jury is still out on how well the health savings account and preventive-care incentive are working, analysts have looked at utilization trends among the newly insured and found that those signing up for the program are sicker and more frequent users of healthcare than those enrolled in commercial, employer-sponsored health plans.

The Healthy Indiana Plan “population used more care than the typical commercial population in Indiana with the same age and gender characteristics,” says Rob Damler, principal at Milliman, a consulting and actuarial firm. Damler is the consulting actuary to the state of Indiana on the health plan.

Childless adults enrolled in Healthy Indiana, for instance, had nearly three times as many inpatient services as private plan members in the first year. And pharmacy use was nearly 50% higher than a typical commercially insured population.

This newly enrolled group was also sicker than the general population. Their relative morbidity was 65% greater than their peers covered by private health insurance. The earliest enrollees to the program also proved to be the sickest, with the highest healthcare costs, Damler says.

This phenomenon is called anti-selection, where the least healthy population seeks healthcare coverage available to them, driving up the costs to insurers and the population covered.

The Healthy Indiana Plan offers some considerations for national reform, Damler says. “One of the issues that needs to be understood is pent-up demand,” he says. “We need to be prepared that the newly insured may cost more in the first 12 to 24 months than the insured population.”

Not surprisingly, insurance companies say that without a federal law requiring everyone to carry health insurance, national healthcare reform won’t work because the chronically ill will sign up for coverage in large numbers, driving up costs, while the healthy will stay on the sidelines.

“It only works if everyone’s covered,” says Alissa Fox, senior vice president of policy at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.