Marketplace Plans

The health insurance exchange provides public coverage by The Affordable Care Act (ACA). We study how these impact premium trends of the private healthcare market, emphasizing Covered California initiatives.

The Public-Private Option in Germany and Australia: Lessons for the United States

By Richard M. Scheffler and Taylor L. Wang | Published September 21, 2020 in Milbank Quarterly Opinion | Link to Full Article

There is little doubt that the cost of health care and universal coverage will be a major topic discussed at the upcoming presidential debates. A key debate will likely center on the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force’s recommendations released earlier this year proposing a public option to compete against existing private insurers. The recommendations only outline a public option framework, so the details, both logistical and financial, will be key to moving forward. While recent articles have assessed the state-level public options in Washington State and New Mexico, we look internationally to Germany and Australia to evaluate how their health care systems have achieved universal coverage by delivering public health insurance. Both countries have a private component in the health insurance system: Germany allows individuals to purchase substitutive private insurance based on income, and Australia takes it a step further by creating incentives for all citizens to enroll in supplemental private insurance. We examine the framework of each system, how the public-private insurance dichotomy is organized, and some key takeaways for the United States.

The Public Option: From Hacker to Biden

By Richard M. Scheffler and Taylor L. Wang | Published September 21, 2020 | Link to Full Article

Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s proposal for a public option is likely to be a major topic in the upcoming presidential debate. While the proposal certainly isn’t the first of its kind, in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic it is especially significant due to the rapid increase in the number of people without insurance. To better understand the arguments for this proposal and other public option or opt out proposals, we discuss the following: (1) Jacob Hacker’s original ideas and arguments for a public option and why it was left out of the ACA, (2) A review of the cost and coverage impacts of various public option reforms conducted by the Urban Institute, (3) An examination of the only state-based public option passed by Washington State, (4) The current version of Biden’s public option, and (5) Final thoughts.

Consumers Buy Lower-Cost Plans on Covered California Suggesting Premium Increases Are Less than Commonly Reported

By Jon R. Gabel, Daniel R. Arnold, Brent D. Fulton, Sam T. Stromberg, Matthew Green, Heidi Whitmore, and Richard M. Scheffler | Published January 2017 in Health Affairs | Link to Full Article

With the notable exception of California, states have not made enrollment data for their Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace plans publicly available. Researchers thus have tracked premium trends by calculating changes in the average price for plans offered (a straight average across plans) rather than for plans purchased (a weighted average). Using publicly available enrollment data for Covered California, we found that the average purchased price for all plans was 11.6 percent less than the average offered price in 2014, 13.2 percent less in 2015, and 15.2 percent less in 2016. Premium growth measured by plans purchased was roughly 2 percentage points less than when measured by plans offered in 2014–15 and 2015–16. We observed shifts in consumer choices toward less costly plans, both between and within tiers, and we estimate that a $100 increase in a plan’s net annual premium reduces its probability of selection. These findings suggest that the Marketplaces are helping consumers moderate premium cost growth.

Differing Impacts of Market Concentration on Affordable Care Marketplace Premiums

By Richard M. Scheffler, Daniel R. Arnold, Brent D. Fulton, and Sherry A. Glied | Published May 2016 in Health Affairs | Link to Full Article

Recent increases in market concentration among health plans, hospitals, and medical groups raise questions about what impact such mergers are having on costs to consumers. We examined the impact of market concentration on the growth of health insurance premiums between 2014 and 2015 in two Affordable Care Act state-based Marketplaces: Covered California and NY State of Health. We measured health plan, hospital, and medical group market concentration using the well-known Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) and used a multivariate regression model to relate these measures to premium growth. Both states exhibited a positive association between hospital concentration and premium growth and a positive (but not statistically significant) association between medical group concentration and premium growth. Our results for health plan concentration differed between the two states: it was positively associated with premium growth in New York but negatively associated with premium growth in California. The health plan concentration finding in Covered California may be the result of its selectively contracting with health plans.

States Can Contain Healthcare Costs. Here’s How: A New York Times Op-Ed

By Richard M. Scheffler and Sherry A. Glied | Published May 2016 in the New York Times | Link to Op-Ed

In this op-ed, Sheffler and Glied discuss the increasing concentrated health insurance market in the wake of the Affordable Health Care Act, and the need for competition and regulation to work together to benefit consumers. The two report on research comparing how the states of California and New York designed their healthcare marketplaces in response to the law, and the flexibility states have in designing their marketplaces.