As debate continues to swirl about the future of U.S. healthcare regulation, here are the four high-level trends we may expect, and how stakeholders could be affected:
1. Healthy people may start leaving the individual market
Recent changes eliminate the penalty for not having health insurance. Under the ACA, consumers were charged a penalty for the year they lacked coverage. But now, when consumers file their taxes, they won’t be charged a penalty. Without the penalty, younger and healthier consumers may choose to not have individual coverage. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need or want health insurance coverage. Expect employers to play an increasingly important role in filling the gap. That being said, not all employers offer health insurance. It’s still ambiguous what the self-employed (think contract, freelance or gig workers) will do. Under the likely scenario in which many of the self-employed forgo insurance under the new regulation, the uninsured rate may increase.
The premiums received from healthy people are generally a great hedge for the unhealthier, or higher-risk, populations for carriers. With the changes occurring in the individual market, carriers can expect a worsening loss ratio: The ratios paid by the premiums to the insurance company to cover settled claims begin to decrease. With the risk pool looking worse, carriers may concentrate on boosting their sales in relatively more stable segments.
3. Employer-sponsored coverage will be critical for employee retention
If the ACA’s employer mandate is repealed, small businesses may no longer be required to provide affordable, minimum-value coverage to their full-time employees to avoid penalties. That being said, with many people losing their individual health coverage, employees may increasingly expect health coverage from their employers. Employer-sponsored benefits have always played a critical role in attracting and retaining talent, but, with the current instability in the market, many employees will appreciate the security of an employer-sponsored coverage plan more than ever.
4. States may have increasing regulatory power
States may gain further flexibility to develop new healthcare models, including changes to affordability and choices offered. A number of states are pushing for their own legislation that could potentially give additional protection to residents beyond the federal level. Keep an eye on states like New York and California, which seek to create programs to increase benefits and requirements set by the ACA.