June 16, 2020

Risk adjustment, a work in progress

Risk Adjustment, Risk Sharing and Premium Regulation in Health Insurance Markets: Theory and Practice

This is a handbook on an unfinished topic. Risk adjustment is required for any managed competition model to work properly (Enthoven model) and for any funding of plans that tries to promote efficiency and avoid selection:
The Enthoven model has evolved as its ideas have been applied in particular institutional contexts. Today, sophisticated risk adjustment models give a regulator an effective tool to quantify differences among individuals in their expected healthcare costs. Rather than a system of risk-rated premiums, regulators rely more on risk adjustment to pay plans more for higher-risk enrollees. Also, the countries in which the regulated competition model has become dominant (e.g., Germany, the Netherlands) are characterized by separation of the functions of health insurance and healthcare provision. Regulated competition can and has been implemented without the presence of integrated HMO type
risk-bearing delivery systems. In these countries, and in other settings such as Medicare Advantage in the United States, regulated competition is oriented to the health insurers, not the healthcare delivery system.
Throughout this evolution, the key feature of Enthoven’s model remains: an active collective agent on the demand side of health insurance structures and manages the health plan market to overcome market failures. Enthoven calls this agent a “sponsor,” a role that can be fulfilled by various organizations. In health insurance markets today, sponsors are mainly governments (as is common in Europe and the United States) and employers (as is common in the United States). In this volume we will generally refer to a “regulator.”
Therefore, any regulator interested in mitigating health insurance market failures should read it.