Plan cancellations hit 20% of individual consumers

Almost 20 percent of consumers with individual plans said their insurance was no longer offered because it didn't meet Affordable Care Act requirements, concluded a recent Health Affairs blog post.

The individual market has "suffered from a number of shortcomings," including benefit exclusions, denials of coverage and varying premiums, according to the authors, who attempted to determine how many consumers were affected by the wave of canceled plans last fall. Plus, the market has been highly volatile, with only 17 percent of individuals retaining their plan for more than two years.

However, insurers didn't outright cancel all individual plans that didn't meet new ACA essential benefit requirements. Some plans were amended or granted "grandfathered" status to exempt them from complying under certain conditions. And among canceled plans, insurers discontinued some for business reasons, such as low enrollment or high average costs.

"Thus, the extent of policy cancellations due to non-ACA-compliance is largely unknown, and the extent of the disruption is hard to assess," the authors wrote.

The Health Reform Monitoring Survey asked a sample of adults in 2013 whether they received a cancellation notice from their insurer, finding 18.6 percent of the 14 million people with individual plans (2.6 million people) said the coverage they had last year was getting discontinued because of new coverage requirements.

Although this conclusion proves the health insurance market is facing disruptions, the authors note "some level of disruption is inherent to any reform that addresses the historical risk segmentation in health insurance markets."

The Urban Institute agrees, saying in a recent brief that health insurance reform is impossible without some sort of interruption or disturbance to the status quo, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Health Affairs blog post