Pre-ACA Market Practices Provide Lessons for ACA Replacement Approaches

Source: Gary Claxton, Larry Levitt, and Karen Pollitz, Kaiser Family Foundation, Issue Brief, February 2017

From the overview:
Significant changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are being considered by lawmakers who have been critical of its general approach to providing coverage and to some of its key provisions. An important area where changes will be considered has to do with how people with health problems would be able to gain and keep access to coverage and how much they may have to pay for it. People’s health is dynamic. At any given time, an estimated 27% of non-elderly adults have health conditions that would make them ineligible for coverage under traditional non-group underwriting standards that existed prior to the ACA. Over their lifetimes, everyone is at risk of having these periods, some short and some that last for the rest of their lives.

One of the biggest changes that the ACA made to the non-group insurance market was to eliminate consideration by insurers of a person’s health or health history in enrollment and rating decisions. This assured that people who had or who developed health problems would have the same plan choices and pay the same premiums as others, essentially pooling their expected costs together to determine the premiums that all would pay.

Proposals for replacing the ACA such as Rep. Tom Price’s Empowering Patients First Act and Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” policy paper would repeal these insurance market rules, moving back towards pre-ACA standards where insurers generally had more leeway to use individual health in enrollment and rating for non-group coverage.1 Under these proposals, people without pre-existing conditions would generally be able to purchase coverage anytime from private insurers. For people with health problems, several approaches have been proposed: (1) requiring insurers to accept people transitioning from previous coverage without a gap (“continuously covered”); (2) allowing insurers to charge higher premiums (within limits) to people with pre-existing conditions who have had a gap in coverage; and (3) establishing high-risk pools, which are public programs that provide coverage to people declined by private insurers…..
Related:
Compare Key Elements of ACA Repeal and Replace Proposals with New Interactive Tool