The potential role of risk-equalization mechanisms in health insurance: the case of South Africa.
International agencies such as the World Bank have widely advocated the use of health insurance as a way of improving health sector efficiency and equity in developing countries. However, in developing countries with well-established, multiple-player health insurance markets, such as South Africa, extension of insurance coverage is now inhibited by problems of moral hazard, and associated cost escalation and fragmentation of insurer risk-pools. Virtually no research has been done on the problem of risk selection in health insurance outside developed countries. This paper provides a brief overview of the problem of risk fragmentation as it has been studied in developed countries, and attempts to apply this to middle-income country settings, particularly that of South Africa. A number of possible remedial measures are discussed, with risk-equalization funds being given the most attention. An overview is given of the risk-equalization approach, common misconceptions regarding its working and the processes that might be required to assess its suitability in different national settings. Where there is widespread public support for social risk pooling in health care, and government is willing and able to assume a regulatory role to achieve this, risk-equalization approaches may achieve significant efficiency and equity gains without destroying the positive features of private health care financing, such as revenue generation, competition and free choice of insurer. (+info)
Where is the financial safety net for managed care physicians?
OBJECTIVE: Empiric research on mechanisms by which managed care physicians attempt to mitigate financial risk is lacking. We assumed the perspective of a managed care plan in investigating the relationship between risk sharing and the match between a physician's capitation payments and costs of care. DESIGN: The study design was a family of payment simulations using 2 years of managed care claims data. METHODS: Claims from a cohort of 82,525 managed care patients were used, with year 1 data determining a capitation rate for year 2 primary care services. The net provider payment in year 2 was examined under scenarios that might modify financial outcomes, including stop-loss insurance, age- and gender-adjustment of capitation, and risk pooling within independent practice associations. RESULTS: The size of a provider's patient panel was positively correlated with net per capita payment (r = 0.22; P < 0.0001 without risk modification strategies). The variance of the ratio of net to total revenue was utilized as a proxy for the degree of risk assumed in caring for a panel of capitated enrollees. Risk modification strategies reduced this variance measure, with risk pooling producing the largest effect, especially for providers of panels of fewer than 135 patients. In contrast, age- and gender-adjustment of capitation payments had little effect on reimbursement outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Short of increasing the pool of capitated patients, risk modification strategies appear limited in their ability to produce more equitable reimbursement to providers with small patient panels. With many providers assuming substantial risk in pursuing managed care contracts, these dynamics may favor organizational forms of medical practice that facilitate large patient panels within a single plan. (+info)
Pooled purchasing: who are the players?
Data from the 1997 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Employer Health Insurance Survey provide the first national estimates of the prevalence of pooled purchasing under all major arrangements. About one-quarter of all businesses participate in a pool; smaller businesses are more likely to participate, and there is substantial geographic variation in the prevalence of pool participation. Pooling appears to have modest positive effects on the availability of employee choice among plans (especially health maintenance organizations) and on the availability of information about plan quality. On the other hand, pooling as now construed does not seem to have enhanced the accessibility or affordability of insurance to employers. (+info)
Expanding access and choice for health care consumers through tax reform.
A refundable tax credit for the uninsured would complement the existing job-based health insurance system while letting people keep their job-based coverage if they wish. Among the wide variety of design options for a tax credit, policy and political analysis does not reveal an obvious choice, but a tax credit based on a percentage of spending may have a slight advantage. Congress should give states maximum flexibility to use existing funding sources to supplement the value of a federal tax credit and encourage the use of techniques to create stable insurance pools. (+info)
Health insurance in South Africa: an empirical analysis of trends in risk-pooling and efficiency following deregulation.
This paper reports an empirical investigation into the pattern of private health insurance coverage in South Africa before and after deregulation of the health insurance industry. More specifically, we sought to measure trends in risk-pooling over the period 1985-95, and to assess the impact of risk pooling on the costs of health insurance cover over this period. South African mutual health insurers (Medical Schemes) have existed for over 100 years, and have been regulated under a specific Act since 1967. Up until 1989, health insurers were required by law to community rate their premiums, and were not allowed to exclude high-risk enrolees from cover. In 1989 these regulations were removed, effectively allowing health insurers to risk-rate the cover which they provided, and exclude 'medically uninsurables'. Data were obtained from the office of the health insurance regulator (the Registrar of Medical Schemes) for the period 1985-95, and consisted of the statutory returns from all registered medical schemes for each year during the study period. Multiple regression methods were used to assess the determinants of changes in the risk pools of insurers, and their costs. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal models were estimated. Unadjusted data suggest changes in risk-pooling since the deregulation period after 1985. Health insurers with open enrolment had worse than average risk profiles in the 1980s, but this reversed by the early 1990s, leaving them with significantly better risk profiles by 1995. Worsening risk profiles were associated with decreasing fund size, higher loss-ratios and past premium increases. Most models showed that risk rating of premiums was consistently associated with higher premiums, after adjustment for risk, quality, scale and other environmental differences between insurers. Likely explanations include the additional costs required for marketing and underwriting risk-rated policies, insufficient incentives to use cost-control techniques, and higher levels of moral hazard associated with diminished risk-pooling. Current re-regulation of risk-pooling within medical schemes may thus improve both equity and efficiency of private health care cover. (+info)
Purchasing cooperatives for small employers: performance and prospects.
Health insurance purchasing cooperatives were established in the early to mid-1990s for the purpose of making health insurance more affordable and accessible for small employers. Extensive interviews at six cooperatives reveal that while some cooperatives enrolled large numbers of small employers, most have won only small market shares and a number have struggled for survival, not always successfully. They have allowed small employers to offer individual employees choice of health plans, but none has been able to sustain lower prices than are available in the conventional market. Among the important impediments to their success are limited support from health plans and conflicts over the role of insurance agents. (+info)
The Internet and managed care: a new wave of innovation.
Managed care firms have been under siege in the political system and the marketplace for the past few years. The rise of the Internet has brought into being powerful new electronic tools for automating administrative and financial processes in health insurance. These tools may enable new firms or employers to create custom-designed networks connecting their workers and providers, bypassing health plans altogether. Alternatively, health plans may use these tools to create a new consumer-focused business model. While some disintermediation of managed care plans may occur, the barriers to adoption of Internet tools by established plans are quite low. Network computing may provide important leverage for health plans not only to retain their franchises but also to improve their profitability and customer service. (+info)
HealthMarts, HIPCs (health insurance purchasing cooperatives), MEWAs (multiple employee welfare arrangements), and AHPs (association health plans): a guide for the perplexed.
This paper considers how pending proposals to authorize new forms of group purchasing arrangements for health insurance would fit and function within the existing, highly complex market and regulatory landscape and whether these proposals are likely to meet their stated objectives and avoid unintended consequences. Cost savings are more likely to result from increased risk segmentation than through true market efficiencies. Thus, these proposals could erode previous market reforms whose goal is increased risk pooling. On the other hand, these proposals contain important enhancements, clarifications, and simplification of state and federal regulatory oversight of group purchasing vehicles. Also, they address some of the problems that have hampered the performance of purchasing cooperatives. On balance, although these proposals should receive cautious and careful consideration, they are not likely to produce a significant overall reduction in premiums or increase in coverage. (+info)