By Bob Herman | August 29, 2016
The CMS proposed rules Monday afternoon that would make several changes to the Affordable Care Act marketplaces and refine the law’s risk adjustment, heeding calls from the health insurance industry.
The proposed rules (PDF), which normally are released in November, come after weeks of intense scrutiny and uncertainty about the viability of the new ACA insurance exchanges. Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group, which have bigger footprints in the employer and Medicare Advantage markets, all have announced major retrenchments for the 2017 season, which begins Nov. 1.
One of the biggest changes involves the ACA’s permanent risk-adjustment program. Lawmakers created risk adjustment to compensate plans for taking on sicker enrollees who have higher healthcare costs, thereby attempting to eliminate the incentive to cherry-pick healthier people.
Starting in 2018, risk adjustment would factor in prescription drug data in addition to all the normal conditions and illnesses that are factored into someone’s risk score. Health insurers have argued their members look healthier than they actually are because the program doesn’t account for the medicines people are taking. But some risk-adjustment experts believe using drug data could create perverse incentives for doctors to write unnecessary prescriptions.
The CMS said the change was worth pursuing while considering those concerns. “We sought to strike a reasonable balance between increasing predictive accuracy and reducing incentives for overprescription,” the agency said. “One way we sought to do so was by focusing on drugs for which guidelines on when they should be prescribed are clear.”