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Could 2018 End Up Being a Year of Improved Health Insurance Market Stability? Here are Five Reasons It Could Be the Case.

With healthcare seemingly out of the political crosshairs for the moment and any tectonic shifts emanating from a new Amazon/Berkshire Hathaway/J.P. Morgan Chase superpower health entity a ways down the road, employers may get to experience some at least temporary market stability in the way of more choices, more consistent rates, less volatile renewals, and more opportunities to innovate (e.g. SharedFunding).

Employers have grounds for hope, at least for the next year or so.

Here are five (5) reasons that may lead to at least some temporary stability and have positive impact on cost and selection in the group market:

  1. The total number of people insured is holding steady or possibly even increasing despite the repeal of the individual mandate.
  2. Interest and energy in employer sponsored plans is up. More employers are offering health coverage. Many are also trying to improve their health coverage in order to compete for and retain talent in a more robust job market and a stronger economy.
  3. Much of the market activity for both insurance carriers and healthcare providers is geared toward gaining scale while building a better mousetrap (eg. Aetna/CVS, Unitedhealthcare and other carriers acquiring providers, etc). Strategic M&A activity is expected to continue.
  4. More states are experimenting by exercising the state waiver option (more info here and here). While tinkering with the individual market and Medicaid will get most of the headlines, more control on the state level should spawn more innovation and new options in the group market especially for small and mid-size employers.
  5. Health systems are now focused on vertical integration and improving their overall value proposition. They’re jockeying for market position and attempting to win over patients and payors alike.

 

 

Health Coverage By the Numbers

Job-based health insurance is the largest single source of health care coverage in the U.S.

1.) Employer-sponsored insurance covers more than 157  million workers and their dependents.

2.) The next largest source of coverage, Medicaid, insures less than half as many, 63 million.

3.) Medicare enrolls 45 million;

4.) Individual market (on/off Marketplace) provides coverage for about 21 million.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF.org)

 

Health FSA Limit Will Increase for 2018

The ACA imposes a maximum dollar limit on employee contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSAs).  Although the ACA set this limit at $2,500, the limit is indexed for cost-of-living adjustments each year.  On Oct. 19, 2017, the IRS announced that, for taxable years beginning in 2018, the dollar limit on employees’ salary reduction contributions to a health FSA will increase to $2,650.


Employers may continue to impose their own dollar limits on employee contributions to health FSAs, as long as the employer’s limit does not exceed the ACA’s maximum limit in effect for the plan year.  For example, an employer may decide to continue limiting employee health FSA contributions for the 2018 plan year to $2,500.


Go here for more information.

Health FSA Limit Will Increase for 2018 10-19-17

Executive Order Ends the “Out-of-Pocket” Subsidy Only; the “Premium” Subsidy Remains in Place

Some folks may think that Friday’s Executive Order did away with Obamacare subsidies altogether.  It didn’t.

There are two subsidies. One was cut.  One wasn’t.

In a nutshell, one subsidy lowers the cost of premium (aka premium tax credits) for those qualified individuals and families enrolled through the exchange and making less than 400% above the poverty level.  This stays in place.

The other covers a reduction in the out-of- pocket expenses or claims costs paid to the medical provider by the patient (aka cost-sharing reductions). This subsidy applies to those earning below 250% of the poverty level and covered by a plan issued by the insurance company through the exchange.

It’s this out-of-pocket budget appropriation that was cut by Friday’s Executive Order.

From what we hear, despite Friday’s Order most of those enrollees who qualify for the out-of-pocket assistance will continue to receive it as part of their coverage at least through 2018.  Many of the insurance carriers still participating on the exchange expected the subsidy cut and planned for it when they filed their rate increases and established their pricing for 2018.

You can read more here.

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