As of January 1, 2014, insurers are no longer able to deny coverage or charge higher premiums based on preexisting conditions (under rules referred to as guaranteed issue and modified community rating, respectively). These aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – along with tax credits for low and middle income people buying insurance on their own in new health insurance marketplaces – make it easier for people with preexisting conditions to gain insurance coverage. However, if not accompanied by other regulatory measures, these provisions could have unintended consequences for the insurance market. Namely, insurers may try to compete by avoiding sicker enrollees rather than by providing the best value to consumers. In addition, in the early years of market reform insurers faced uncertainty as to how to price coverage as new people (including those previously considered “uninsurable”) gained coverage, potentially leading to premium volatility. This brief explains three provisions of the ACA – risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors – that were intended to promote insurer competition on the basis of quality and value and promote insurance market stability, particularly in the early years of reform.
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