Premiums

Average ACA Benchmark Plan Premium Continues to Drop in 2022

The national average premium for the second-lowest-cost silver plan, or benchmark plan, sold through the Affordable Care Act exchanges is $438 per month in 2022, a 1.8% drop compared to 2021, according to an Urban Institute analysis. Average benchmark premiums, by state, ranged from $309 in New Hampshire to $766 in West Virginia. The premium variation was associated with the type and number of insurers participating in a region. The presence of a Medicaid insurer led to lower benchmark premiums. In 2021, the benchmark premium in a rating region with only one insurer was $189.5 higher per month than in regions with five or more insurers.

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Maine Will Combine Individual, Small-Group Insurance Markets

Maine will merge its small-group and individual exchange health insurance markets starting in plan year 2023. Experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that the move is a bid to stabilize small-group premiums, which have gone up in recent years.

According to a Feb. 15 press release from the state’s Bureau of Insurance, “the merger, which will pool the risks of the two markets and roll the Small Group coverage into the Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association (MGARA), is projected to reverse the trend of steady premium increases and declining enrollments in Maine’s Small Group Market, while supporting continued stable pricing in the Individual Market.”

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Premiums, Deductibles Take Growing Portion of Workers’ Paychecks

People with employer-sponsored health plans spent 11.6% of their median household income on premiums and deductibles in 2020, up from 9.1% in 2010, according to an analysis published by The Commonwealth Fund. In 37 states, premiums and deductibles accounted for 10% or more of employees’ median income in 2020, with those in Mississippi and New Mexico facing the highest potential costs relative to income. The average premium for single coverage and family coverage reached $1,532 and $5,978 nationally.

Premiums, Deductibles Take Growing Portion of Workers’ Paychecks

People with employer-sponsored health plans spent 11.6% of their median household income on premiums and deductibles in 2020, up from 9.1% in 2010, according to an analysis published by The Commonwealth Fund. In 37 states, premiums and deductibles accounted for 10% or more of employees’ median income in 2020, with those in Mississippi and New Mexico facing the highest potential costs relative to income. The average premium for single coverage and family coverage reached $1,532 and $5,978 nationally.

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CMS Proposed NCD Will Provide Limited Medicare Coverage of Aduhelm, Other Similar Therapies

To say that the FDA’s approval of Biogen and Eisai, Co., Ltd.’s Alzheimer’s disease treatment Aduhelm (aducanumab-avwa) on June 7, 2021, garnered an immense amount of attention would seem to be an understatement. That said, the drug has somehow gathered even more notice over the past few months due to multiple developments, with CMS most recently issuing a proposed National Coverage Determination (NCD) on Aduhelm and other monoclonal antibodies that target beta amyloid plaque that will allow Medicare coverage for the therapies but only under certain circumstances. While commercial payers often follow CMS’s lead, it remains to be seen whether that decision — plus a dramatic price cut on Aduhelm — will prompt payers that have declined to cover the therapy to change course.

There is a 30-day public comment period on the proposed NCD, which was published Jan. 11. A final decision is expected on April 11.

Medicare Plans to Cover Aduhelm but With Certain Restrictions

To say that the FDA’s approval of Biogen and Eisai, Co., Ltd.’s Alzheimer’s disease treatment Aduhelm (aducanumab-avwa) on June 7, 2021, garnered an immense amount of attention would seem to be an understatement. That said, the drug has somehow gathered even more notice over the past few months due to multiple developments, with CMS most recently issuing a proposed National Coverage Determination (NCD) on Aduhelm and other monoclonal antibodies that target beta amyloid plaque that will allow Medicare coverage for the therapies but only under certain circumstances. While commercial payers often follow CMS’s lead, it remains to be seen whether that decision — plus a dramatic price cut on Aduhelm — will prompt payers that have declined to cover the therapy to change course.

There is a 30-day public comment period on the proposed NCD, which was published Jan. 11. A final decision is expected on April 11.

PBMs Will Face Pressure From Transparency Rules, Startups

This year, PBMs will continue to face growing pressure from plan sponsors, regulators and policymakers to prove that they deliver value and keep drug costs down — and could face additional legislative or regulatory challenges to the way they do business. Meanwhile, investors are likely to put even more capital into startups that challenge the traditional pharmacy benefit paradigm, and the post-pandemic boom in risk-based contracting could expand into pharmacy benefits.

Federal and state regulators have increased scrutiny on PBMs in recent years. In particular, state efforts to regulate PBMs were buoyed by the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), a lawsuit in which the justices held that states were not in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) in attempting to regulate the rates at which PBMs reimburse pharmacies. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), a think tank and policy advocacy group, so far this year 42 states considered 111 bills relating to PBM regulation in 2021. That activity is likely to continue in 2022.

Big MLR Rebates Point to Ever-More-Profitable ACA Exchanges

Recently, CMS revealed that private health plans had to deliver $2 billion in rebates to their customers for the 2020 reporting year, with the bulk of that money going toward individual market enrollees. Affordable Care Act experts say that while the large rebate payout does mean premiums have been overpriced, it’s also indicative of just how profitable the ACA exchanges have become for insurers.

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Provider Lawsuit Could Tie Up Surprise Billing Regulations

The U.S.’s two largest health care provider groups, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA), sued the Biden administration on Dec. 9, asking a federal court to block regulations officials developed to implement the No Surprises Act, parts of which will come into effect on Jan. 1. Health care attorneys tell AIS Health that the suit may hinge on the providers’ allegation that federal officials stretched their legal authority too far beyond the Act’s original intent — and that the providers might win.

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CVS Health Will Spend Up to $25 Billion on Provider M&A

At the firm’s annual investor conference, CVS Health Corp. executives promoted closer vertical integration and promised to move even further into care provision. CVS, which acquired Aetna in 2018, emphasized virtual care and its retail HealthHUB clinics in recent months, and it has indicated it has a strong interest in acquiring providers, particularly in primary care.

Other large carriers have made similar moves in recent years. UnitedHealth Group owns both the U.S.’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, and a growing provider arm, OptumCare. Humana Inc. has moved to acquire in-home and primary care providers. Meanwhile, CVS’s largest retail pharmacy competitor, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., is purchasing clinics with the goal of becoming a major primary and urgent care provider. According to CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch, the firm’s position astride all three businesses — retail, care delivery and benefits management — is why it will perform better than its rivals.

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