We’re in the midst of charge submitting season for well being insurers. Though most proposed premium charges for 2023 gained’t be public till the top of July, a handful of state regulators require submissions in Might or June and publish these proposed charges on their web sites. These early charge filings can present hints about how insurers are responding to market traits, coverage adjustments, and rising drivers of well being care prices. This 12 months, insurers are setting premiums amidst a spike in inflation, uncertainty about federal insurance policies affecting the Reasonably priced Care Act (ACA) Marketplaces, and a pandemic with an unknown future trajectory. To achieve insights into how particular person market insurers are growing their 2023 premium charges, I reviewed* early proposed charge filings within the District of Columbia (D.C.), Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Tick Tock: The 2023 Price Submitting Calendar Requires Choice-making Amidst A number of Unknowns
Figuring out premium charges for every plan 12 months requires an extended lead time. Beneath federal guidelines, insurers should submit proposed charges no later than July 17 for the following 12 months, and a few states require an earlier deadline. See Determine 1.
Though quite a lot of states publicly publish charge filings in Might and June, HealthCare.gov will publicly publish filings on July 27. As soon as charges are finalized, they’re usually locked in for the complete subsequent plan 12 months, though some last-minute adjustments earlier than November 1st could also be potential. The lengthy lead time for the annual charge evaluation course of means insurers are setting charges for all of 2023 with out figuring out whether or not Congress will prolong the American Rescue Plan’s enhanced premium tax credit, that are at the moment scheduled to run out in December 2022. In addition they have no idea when the COVID-19 Public Well being Emergency (PHE) will finish, triggering the disenrollment of as much as 16 million folks from Medicaid. And nobody can understand how for much longer COVID-19 will proceed to have an effect on well being care prices and utilization.
Within the chosen states with early submitting deadlines, common charge will increase are significantly larger than they’ve been within the final couple of years, though there are a couple of insurers proposing solely modest hikes, and even small reductions. See Determine 2.
Paying it Ahead (Not in a Good Means)
After a banner 12 months in 2020, many insurers had higher-than-expected utilization in 2021 and in early 2022, leading to monetary losses that they’re in search of to recoup with larger premiums in 2023. Of their charge filings, insurers attributed this to pent up demand for well being care providers that individuals had delayed or foregone in 2020 due to COVID-19, in addition to the emergence of the Delta variant in mid-2021. Some insurers additionally reported that those that enrolled by means of 2021’s prolonged particular enrollment interval (SEP) tended to be sicker than those that signed up throughout the annual open enrollment window. For instance, Molina of Washington had a pretax web earnings lack of nearly $35.5 million in 2021; Kaiser Permanente in Maryland misplaced over $4 million. Premera Blue Cross Blue Defend in Washington attributes totally 9% of its 15.41% proposed charge improve to “worse than anticipated” expertise in 2021. MVP Well being Plan in Vermont experiences that its expertise this 12 months is “extra hostile” than they priced for, accounting for a 16.1 p.c improve of their charges.
It’s [Always] the Costs, Silly
A major driver of 2023’s proposed charge will increase is the rising value of well being care items and providers. Hospitals particularly are in search of reimbursement will increase to account for larger labor and provide prices, pushed partly by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Blue Cross Blue Defend of Vermont put it: “To a better extent than ordinary, development [in medical costs] is probably the most vital driver to the change in charges.” The insurer, which is in search of a median improve of 12.3 p.c, expects costs for its Vermont suppliers to leap by 9.7 p.c subsequent 12 months. Blue Cross Blue Defend of Rhode Island equally cites “vital inflation” in supplier prices for 2023. Moreover, though utilized by solely a minority of enrollees, insurers pointed to the excessive and rising costs of specialty prescribed drugs as a big driver of this 12 months’s proposed charge hikes.
Anticipated Federal Coverage Adjustments Push Premiums Up
Though supplier and pharmaceutical costs are key elements, well being care actuaries are additionally predicting a rise in using medical providers (utilization) and a decline within the total well being standing (morbidity) of the person market danger pool. One motive is the anticipated expiration of the enhanced premium tax credit supplied underneath the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Until Congress extends these subsidies, they may expire on the finish of 2022, leading to vital web premium will increase for many Market enrollees. Many insurers’ proposed charges for 2023 assume that their enrollment will likely be smaller and sicker because of this. For instance, Blue Cross Blue Defend of Michigan is attributing a 0.3 p.c improve in premiums to the top of the ARP subsidies, whereas Oscar expects the rise in market morbidity to value enrollees 1.7 p.c extra in premiums. Then again, some insurers are shrugging off the affect of the top of the ARP subsidies. Molina of Washington, for instance, is assuming that its 2023 enrollees could have the identical danger profile as its 2022 enrollees.
A number of insurers are additionally in search of a premium improve as a result of enrollees who’re disenrolled from Medicaid after the top of the PHE are anticipated to have poorer well being, on common, than typical business market enrollees. For instance, Neighborhood Well being Plan of Rhode Island writes in its charge submitting: “[We] made assumptions round will increase in enrollment and better claims bills from [members transitioning from Medicaid]. [We are] anticipating a morbidity improve of 1.5% as a result of finish of the PHE.”
The Unending Pandemic
Insurers have totally different projections concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Though most predict a decline in COVID-related prices, a couple of have a much less rosy outlook. Blue Cross Blue Defend of Rhode Island, for instance, expects to spend 50 p.c much less on COVID-related providers than it did in 2021. Equally, PacificSource of Oregon wrote, “…throughout the starting months of 2022, we now have seen a big lower in utilization in addition to value related to COVID-19. We’re projecting that utilization and prices attributable to COVID-19 within the projection interval will proceed to stay nicely beneath ranges seen in .” Just a few insurers, similar to Anthem and Aetna in Maine, are assuming that their 2023 COVID claims prices would be the similar as they had been in 2021. And a few are predicting that sure COVID-related bills, similar to for assessments and booster pictures, will improve. For instance, Windfall of Oregon is including .4 p.c to its 2023 premium to cowl COVID booster pictures.
Tighten Our Belts? Nah.
For affected households, the eye-popping premium will increase that many insurers are in search of will compound the pinch of inflated gasoline, grocery and different costs. However that’s not stopping some insurers, notably the for-profit ones, from constructing large revenue margins into their charges. United Healthcare and Centene in Washington need hefty 5 p.c margins in 2023, whereas Oscar in Michigan needs 4.3 p.c and Anthem in Maine is in search of 4 p.c. Non-profit insurers are in search of considerably smaller however nonetheless vital margins, similar to the three p.c sought by Neighborhood Well being Plan in Rhode Island.
The 2023 proposed charges are usually not the ultimate phrase. Many (however not all) state departments of insurance coverage (DOIs) will evaluation the proposed will increase, and a few will push again on charges they discover to be extreme or unreasonable. If Congress manages to enact a reconciliation invoice that extends the ARPA subsidies, many state DOIs will demand that insurers scale back their charges accordingly. However Congress might want to act swiftly, earlier than these 2023 charges grow to be irreversible.
* My evaluation of those charge filings was largely restricted to the actuarial memoranda that should accompany every charge submitting. These memos clarify, in lay language, insurers’ previous expertise, present assumptions, and predictions for the following plan 12 months.