UHLC Prof. Chandler tells Congressional leaders premium increases under the ACA in 2016 should be viewed with caution

UHLC Prof. Chandler  tells Congressional leaders premium increases under the ACA in 2016 should be  viewed with caution

UHLC Prof. Seth Chandler appears before Congress on insurance cost impacts of Obamacare

June 24, 2015 - University of Houston Law Center Professor Seth Chandler testified today at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Committee Subcommittee on Oversight on the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also called “Obamacare.” Chandler, the Foundation Professor of Law, specializes in insurance law and health law and frequently uses mathematics to enhance legal analysis.

In his testimony, Chandler highlighted the following:

  • We need to be careful in looking at premium increases: there are many occasions on which the net premium percent increase seen by an insured, the important thing, will be considerably higher than the gross premium percent increase. This fact is likely to diminish individual choice and induce policyholders to purchase lower cost silver HMO policies. Sometimes the net premium increase will be less than the gross.
  • Although they will contribute, the phase out of transitional reinsurance and the Cromnibus alteration of risk corridors are unlikely to be responsible for particularly large premium increases for 2016.
  • The major source of increases is likely to be higher-than-expected claims from insureds, particularly in the more generous platinum and gold plans.

Chandler noted that because his appearance came before the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell, his remarks were being made under the assumption that the case will be resolved favorably in the Obama administration’s position.

“If that is not the case, the issues created thereby will not make what I say untrue in concept, but the numbers may well change and there will be an issue of greater magnitude to debate,” he said.

In questioning by committee members following the witnesses’ prepared remarks, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., asked Chandler if the heath care expenditure model under the ACA was “sustainable.”

“In my opinion, it is very unrealistic to think that this county can afford a situation in which 17% of GDP goes to health care, and that is estimated to keep going up. It’s estimated to go up to 23 percent,” Chandler replied.

“Yes, health care is important. But we can’t run businesses, we can’t run a society well in which that large a proportion of our GDP is being diverted to health care,” he said.

Rep. Pat Meecham, R-Pa., asked Chandler if was true that the ACA was causing provider networks to narrow, and whether narrower networks are “a good thing.”

“What you are seeing is an entirely predictable result. Community rated plans in most jurisdictions have been subject to severe adverse selection problems and I believe we are beginning to see precisely that with the rate increases we are seeing here,” Chandler said.

The committee also heard testimony from Julie McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance; Al Redmer, Jr., commissioner of the Maryland Insurance Administration; and Mike Kriedler, Washington State Insurance Commissioner.

Click here to view Chandler's testimony.

Click here to read Chandler’s prepared remarks in full.

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