Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Narrow Networks and the 2015 Version of ACA

"More directly, Obamacare is eliminating access to many of the best specialists and best hospitals for middle-income Americans. To meet the law's requirements, major insurers all across the country are declining to participate in the exchanges, or only offering plans that exclude many of America's best doctors and hospitals. McKinsey reported 68% of Obamacare insurance options only cover narrow or very narrow provider networks, double that of one year ago." -If you like choice in health care, look to Republicans, Scott Atlas, CNN

Atlas is correct, the vast majority of the choices on the ACA exchange are that of narrow networks regarding the 2015 offerings (effective 01/01/2015).

Last year, James and Jane Goodfellow would have had a tough time discerning what was a broad or narrow network of providers as insurers used their pet names regarding what was broad or narrow. This go around, after the insurers pet name appears, regarding PPO's (preferred provider organizations), there is inserted the term "board network" or "limited network" as a clarification for consumers.

However, once you get outside the PPO, the HMO (health maintenance organization) offerings do not explain or add a clarification what an HMO is and how it functions. One might say the HMO was/is the original narrow network (only those inside the HMO are one’s providers).

CMS and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are stating that one can keep one’s premium level (current ACA policyholders) or with a slight increase by switching insurers i.e. buy one of the new offerings. They fail to point out the particulars of their claim of level or slightly increased price. By switching to a more narrow network or from old insurer narrow network to new insurer narrow network, one might keep premium increases modest. However a secondary and as important phenomena is at work regarding the claim of modest price increase by switching insurers: anti-selection. How so?

Consider 10/01/2013 and the initial availability of ACA with effective date 01/01/2014. Crowded at the starting line, like a group of marathon runners awaiting the starting pistol, were hundreds of thousands of chronically ill people. This group, the existence thereof caused by a variety of reasons, wanted to obtain coverage immediately and so they did. Hence the initial group of insurers that appeared on the ACA exchange for the 2014 offering ended up with large numbers of chronically ill insured’s. Stated alternatively, rather than attracting a wide variety of homogeneous exposure units spread over a wide geographic area they attracted an inordinate number of chronically ill exposure units.

The initial group of insurers offering ACA products, attracting the chronically ill, suffered losses that that drove up loss ratios and hence premium increases were called for to offset losses.

Now comes the 2015 offerings and a new set of insurers appear. The new insurers have the knowledge that anti-selection has already occurred regarding the initial insurers. They also know that the chronically ill are less apt to change insurers for a lower price but healthy insured’s, face with a price increase yet having made no claims are very apt to change insurers based on price. The new insurers offer a slightly lower premium rate to attract the healthy away from the initial insurers. Hence the new insurers attract the healthy exposure units while the initial insurers, in the main, lose the healthy but retain the chronic.

The entire process ends with the initial insurer faced with few new entrants into their plan due to spiraling price increases and an ever increasing exodus of healthy insured’s must close the book of business regarding the offered plan and transition the remaining insured’s to a new plan or merely exit ACA.

1 comment:

  1. there may well be fewer choices in a plan, but the number of companies participating in the exchanges is going up, not down
    that is, in 2015, there will be more companies in more exchanges