Milliman Study Highlights the Impact of Medical Loss Ratio Rules on HSAs

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A new report by Milliman Inc. says that high-deductible health plans, including those with health savings accounts (HSAs), will likely be more adversely impacted by the medical loss ratio requirements under PPACA than other types of comprehensive medical plans.  Consumers who rely on HSA-qualified plans to finance their health care may experience greater costs in their current health plans and may eventually have to find more expensive replacement coverage.

The primary issues of concern for high-deductible plans are that:

-The medical loss ratio formula doesn’t take into account contributions to HSAs.  Many high-deductible health plans are accompanied by an HSA, which covers much of the first-dollar costs before the plan’s deductible is reached. HSA contributions are currently not reflected in the medical loss ratio calculations.

-High-deductible health plans may not be able to raise rates fast enough to keep up with rising costs.  High-deductible health plans will require larger annual rate increases than typical medical plans because medical inflation will have a greater impact on claim levels than plans with lower deductibles.

-Every plan has fixed expenses that it covers with premiums.  Since high-deductible health plans have lower premiums than other plans, a greater percentage of the premium must be used to pay these fixed expenses.

-High-deductible health plans have less predictable claims experience that could increase the risk of paying rebates.  High-deductible insurance plans pay fewer claims than plans with low deductibles.  But when high-deductible health plans pay claims, the claim dollar amounts tend to be larger.  This lower-frequency/high-payment creates less actuarial predictability which can result in high claims in one year and low claims in another.  If the plan has low claims, it may not meet the 80 percent medical loss ratio and be required to pay rebates.  If the plan has high claims, it may lose money that it cannot “make up” in other years.

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