- Next year's insurance premiums in the individual and small group market will not see wild swings given the underlying trends in the market even in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the annual report from the American Academy of Actuaries.
- There is more information available now about how COVID-19 continues to affect healthcare spending and utilization, unlike the 2021 rate-setting season, and "those impacts are not expected to be material," per the report released Thursday.
- However, it does caution that experiences may differ regionally and drive premiums as the impact of the pandemic is uneven across the country.
How insurance carriers set rates is largely dependent on the experience of years prior, which is why rate-setting amid the pandemic posed difficulty for many of them.
There was a great deal of uncertainty in setting rates for 2021 due to the anomaly of 2020 and the upheaval the pandemic caused to normal healthcare utilization.
The actuaries said that even though the pandemic continues, and even in the current wave of the highly contagious delta variant, carriers know more than they did when trying to set rates for 2021.
Carriers have likely considered a few key drivers to premium changes, including whether new waves of cases will emerge later in 2021 or in 2022, and whether those will be regional or nationwide. Plans have also likely considered the effects of deferred care and whether that has led to health deteriorating for members. And they've likely factored in the cost of additional vaccines.
A report from researchers at Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms also finds premiums, at least in some states, remained relatively stable in spite of the lingering pandemic.
"For the most part, insurers in the five states assessed are proposing modest premium increases compared to past years. In some cases, they even propose premium decreases," Sabrina Corlette wrote in July after examining early rate filings insurers submitted in D.C., Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Though, similar to the actuaries report, Corlette notes that there are some outliers requesting larger increases in certain areas.
"In all cases, insurers report that the primary drivers of higher premiums are the ever-rising prices charged by health care providers," Corlette said.
The pandemic spurred an economic calamity causing millions to lose their jobs, risking access to health insurance coverage as many Americans receive coverage through their jobs.
However, the nation did not experience a surge in the uninsured rate, which experts attribute to healthcare reform that routed Americans to some other type of coverage, either on an Affordable Care Act exchange or through government programs like Medicaid.
The Biden administration also extended a special ACA enrollment period, allowing more Americans to enroll in coverage as the pandemic persisted. And Medicaid growth reached record heights as policies put in place during the pandemic bar states from kicking beneficiaries off Medicaid plans so long as the public health emergency is in place.