AHIP: Individual mandate delay could destabilize market

Delaying the individual mandate, for which some Republican lawmakers are advocating, would destabilize the insurance market on and off the health insurance exchanges and raise premiums for most consumers, America's Health Insurance Plans said in a new issue brief.

The primary problem, according to AHIP, is the healthcare reform law doesn't work without requiring all individuals obtain insurance. Insurers base rates on the assumption that the individual mandate will be implemented, so delaying the requirement even for only one year would invalidate the premiums that already have been approved.

States that have tried to reform health insurance without an individual mandate saw "disastrous" results, including higher premiums, lower enrollment and unstable individual markets, AHIP said.

Additionally, postponing the individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured consumers throughout the country. In September, the Congressional Budget Office estimated an individual mandate delay would add 11 million more people to the uninsured population in 2014, for about 55 million uninsured people that year.

AHIP also opposes other lawmakers' calls to extend the open enrollment period for exchanges beyond the March 31 deadline, claiming the move could increase premiums and hurt insuers' profits, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

The group claimed an extension would still cause adverse selection and higher premiums because insurers' rates are based on the fixed enrollment period. It would incentivize older, sicker consumers to enroll in a plan while the so-called "young invincibles" who are key to offsetting the costs of the more expensive older, sicker members would likely wait to sign-up or choose not to enroll alt all.

"As the deadline for signing up is nearly five months away, there is more than enough time for individuals interested in coverage to select and enroll in a plan by the deadline," AHIP said in the brief.

To learn more:
- here's the AHIP issue brief (.pdf)