Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE Menu


What Are The 3R’s?

Stanley Feld M.D.FACP,MACE

The 3R’s are the Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridors program built into The Accountable Care Act (Obamacare). The 3R’s were meant to encourage the healthcare insurance industry to participate in providing insurance to participants in the State Health Insurance Exchanges. President Obama has extended the 3R’s to included Federal Health Insurance Exchanges.

The 3R’s were activated because of the poor enrollment in the State and Federal Healthcare Exchanges. It was billed to offer protection to the healthcare insurance industry against any losses incurred by participation in Health Insurance Exchanges.

The healthcare insurance industry’s participation in Obamacare’s Health Insurance Exchanges was negative at first.

The Health Insurance Exchanges were viewed as a trap set by the Obama administration to control the healthcare insurance industry. In the process the healthcare insurance industry would ultimately lose money.

The healthcare insurance industry did not participate widely in the health insurance exchanges at first.

 “These risk-sharing programs are often called the “3 Rs” because they are Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridor.” The three risk-sharing provisions were intended to protect insurers financially, especially in the first few years the Exchanges are in effect if activated.”

The ACA includes various mechanisms to accomplish this goal including requiring insurers to cover everyone who applies, prohibiting insurers from imposing preexisting conditions limitations, and severely limiting the factors insurers can consider in setting premiums.  Obviously, these mechanisms put insurers at financial risk, since their underwriters won’t have sufficient data to predict claims costs, such as the number of people likely to enroll, their health status or claims history, or other demographic information on enrollees.

The Obama administration included this safety net for healthcare insurers. It also set the traps for the healthcare insurance industry.

Purpose of Permanent Risk Adjustment

To combat overall adverse selection since health insurance is now guaranteed to anyone who applies. Healthcare insurance carriers cannot impose pre-existing conditions limitations. They cannot vary premiums based on individual’s health status.

The trap is that the government will redistribute money between insurance carriers. The Permanent Risk Adjustment scheme is supposed to redistribute profit from insurers with lower claims enrollees to those with higher claims enrollees and losses.

All non-grandfathered insured plans in the individual and small group market, in or out of the health insurance exchanges, are supposed to pay for this redistribution of money. This redistribution is to be monitored by the federal government. (Another bureaucracy)

Does anyone think this can work? I don’t.The second R is the Transitional Reinsurance Program. It is to run from 2014-2016 and then stop running.

The Transitional Reinsurance Program’s purpose is to stabilize premiums in the individual market during the first 3 years the exchanges operate, because higher-cost (sicker) individuals are more likely to enroll early.

This program’s purpose is to redistribute money from group health plans that make a profit to certain insurers with Qualified Health Plans on the individual State and Federal Exchanges that have high cost (claims) enrollees to prevent loses for those insurance companies. This is supposed to encourage insurance companies to join the exchanges.

All group health plans are required to pay for losses in 2014. There has been no reporting as yet to let anyone know how this has worked out in 2014. This provision further exposes President Obama’s lie that “if you like your plan you can keep your plan.” He knew no one could keep their healthcare plan as the bill was written.

A specific waiver was provided for 2015 & 2016. There are a few self-insured plans that self-administer their claims. Most corporations use healthcare insurance companies as third party payers. Therefore, the wavier is essentially eliminated.

The traditional reinsurance program is going to be very difficult to administer.

The Temporary Risk Corridor for 2014-2016 makes the 3R program even more complicated and more difficult to administer.

The goal of the temporary risk corridor is to limit insurer gains and losses in first 3 years of Obamacare and place all healthcare insurance company risks on a level playing field. The healthcare insurers have a limited amount of data on the risk of claims for Health Exchange enrollees. The healthcare companies have histories of claims for Qualified Health Insurance Plans and the expected enrollment. The health Insurance companies have to guess at their actuarial risk if they participate in Obamacare in order to set premiums.

Limiting the healthcare insurance industry’s risk will be complicated for the government.

Insurers who have actual claims more than expected claims will be paid the excess if funds from these insurers are not sufficient. HHS is directed to pay the excess.

The problem is Obamacare (ACA) did not provide for creation of a specified source of funds or a revolving fund for HHS to pay this excess.

In 2014, the first year of the exchanges insurers received $450 million dollars. The source of the government funds is unclear.

An important concept about insurance reimbursement is always ignored. Insurance claims have nothing to do with the actual insurance reimbursement. Reimbursement is usually 50% less than the claims.

Therefore, the amount of supposed payment is doubled using claims to calculate payment and probably future premiums.

The government is hoping that the entire scheme is budget neutral. It will collect and redistribute the profit made by one insurance company to the insurance company that loses money from the high-risk patients.

The government thinks it will have no out of pocket reimbursement obligation.

The government plans to compare insurers within a state based on the average financial risk of their enrolled population.

“ To more evenly spread the financial risk among insurers, government payments are made to insurers who cover a higher-risk population (e.g., people who are older, sicker or have more chronic conditions) from the profit of lower risk insurers. “

Theoretically, the insurers who make a profit from the lower risk population pay the insurers who make less from their older, sicker population with many chronic diseases.

This is called redistribution of profit and wealth. I have a tough time believing that profit making companies will sign up for that.

Below are the formulas that will be used in 2014 and 2015 for the redistribution of profit of healthcare insurance companies.

2014: Once an insurer has paid $45k in claims for an individual (the attachment point), the insurer is reimbursed for 80% of costs between $45k & $250k per person.  (Originally $45k was $60k)”

2015: $70k attachment point per insured, then insurer will be reimbursed for 50% of costs between $70k & $250k per person.  HHS publishes a Notice of Benefit & Payment Parameters each March, with the numbers for following year.”

“If actual claims are within 3% of expected claims, insurers in Exchanges keep the profits or bear the risks.  If claims are 3-8% more (or less) than expected, insurer pays the gov’t (or is reimbursed by the gov’t) 50% of the gains (losses) and keeps (or bears the loss of) the other 50%.” 

“If claims are at least or > 8% more (or less) than expected, insurer pays the gov’t (or is reimbursed by the gov’t) 80% of the gains (losses) and keeps (or bears the risk of) the other 20%.”

It is all very complicated. It will be impossible to enforce. This is another Obamacare trick to fake out the very profitable healthcare insurance industry.

I think the healthcare insurance industry knows all this. They are taking steps at this very moment to dodge the Obama administrations trap.

The losers will be the American people who will experience an increase in healthcare insurance premiums and higher taxes.