AHIP CEO presses for high-deductible exchange plans

Insurers should be allowed to sell high-deductible plans on all health insurance exchanges, says America's Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Karen Ignagni.

Ignagni explained in an interview with the National Journal that consumers don't always want to buy plans with more coverage, so the federal government should create a new tier for offering less comprehensive benefits at a lower premium.

"I think a fundamental question ... is what is the perception of an individual who has had coverage and is asked to buy 10 categories of coverage?" Ignagni said. "Do they feel that that is too much?"

Historically, consumers buying individual insurance before the Affordable Care Act "expressed a very, very strong preference to buy more catastrophic coverage," she told the National Journal. "They chose very high deductibles. They wanted to minimize their out-of-pocket premium."

Ignagni pointed to the concerns last fall among people whose plans were canceled. "In part they were concerned about moving from coverage they had, which had not necessarily included all 10 categories of coverage, and buying up," she said, adding that the debate about those noncompliant, canceled plans illustrates AHIP's point that there should be another coverage level available.

Instead of removing some of the essential benefits already required under the ACA, Ignagni said Congress should give consumers an option to buy coverage with a lower actuarial value than a bronze plan, which would allow people to gradually get into the insurance exchanges and ensure healthier people are part of the risk pool, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

However, exchange plans that have high deductibles and copays could lead to poorer health and higher downstream costs for low-income patients. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 34 percent of enrollees in higher-deductible health plans had difficulty paying medical bills, compared to 24 percent in plans with lower deductibles, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the National Journal article