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2015 – Another Year of Uncertainty?

By Cathy Eddy, Health Plan Alliance, February 25, 2015

This year on March 23, we will mark the 5th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Typically, you would expect that most of the unknowns that go along with a new law would have been worked out by now. Yet as we look ahead, we have several key elements that may change. There are also other drivers that are challenging our health plans.

Here are some of the uncertainties still ahead:

  • We now have a Republican Congress with the Senate flipping in the 2014 election. This will allow for legislative changes to ACA to make it to President Obama’s desk, but veto power will block most of these without some Democratic support. Some areas, such as eliminating the device tax and redefining the 30 hour “full time” work week to 40 hours, have bi-partisan support. 
  • The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in March about the subsidies on the public exchanges in states where the federal exchange,, is in place. The wording in ACA indicates that subsidies will only be given if there is a state-run exchange and that would impact about 2/3 of the states using the federal exchange. Their decision is due by June. 
  • The health plans on the public exchanges had to set rates for 2015 with little experience about those members in these programs. It will become clearer as this year progresses just what the MLR is for this line of business. By the time open enrollment starts for the public exchanges in 2016, we’ll find out if premiums go significantly higher or stay at current levels. The impact of the 3 Rs on the plans will also become clearer. Standards for being a QHP remain unclear. Introduction of compliance requirements such as consumer satisfaction measurements will be tested in 2015. Technology bugs still abound with data flowing between plans and CMS.
  • Individual mandates are in place with increasing penalties for not having insurance coverage, but the implementation of the employer mandate is still uncertain. 
  • A new type of insurance company – the state Co-ops – were created by ACA with federal loans. Not all states were able to offer this model. In 2015, some of the established Co-ops are expanding to new states. Others are offering coverage through off-exchange products in the commercial space. Some are struggling to maintain the necessary level of capital.  The future of the Co-op model still has a level of uncertainty. 
  • Providers have been embracing the concept of “value based reimbursement,” and the movement away from fee-for-service, but the implementation of this strategy has been much slower than first expected. 
  • The trend for the past couple of years has been for providers to become payers and for payers to move more into the provider space. Many members of the Health Plan Alliance have been approached to work with health systems that don’t have their own health plans. Will this trend continue or will providers find that entering the insurance space and taking on more risk is outside of their comfort zone?
  • Will 2015 be the year that ICD-10 is finally implemented or will there be another delay? 
  • Many states are looking at their Medicaid expenditures and trying to find ways to control increases. Some states have made major changes to their programs and are implementing the changes. Dual eligibles are being moved into managed care programs. Will more states take the federal dollars for Medicaid expansion? 
  • Plans that are in the Medicare Advantage line of business continue to be challenged by risk adjustment, STAR ratings and reimbursement levels, as well as multiple audits. As plans expand these programs they continue to deal with uncertainty.

Well, at least 2015 won’t  be boring!

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