In a September 9th letter the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services denied Delaware Insurance Commissioner Stewart’s application for an adjustment to the 80 percent medical loss ratio (“MLR”) standard applicable to the individual health insurance market in Delaware beginning in 2011 as a result of the federal health care reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Act”). Section 1001 of the Act required issuers in the individual market to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on reimbursement for clinical services and activities that improve health care quality for enrollees. Beginning in 2011, if an issuer does not meet the 80 percent standard, it is required to provide rebates to enrollees.
The Act permits states to apply for adjustments to the 80 percent standard if applying that standard may destabilize the market for individual health insurance coverage in the state. Commissioner Stewart applied for an adjustment of the standard to 65 percent, 70 percent and 75 percent for the reporting years 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively. Of the three largest issuers of individual health insurance coverage in the state, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Golden Rule, and Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield already meets the 80 percent standard but Golden Rule and Aetna do not and, according to media reports, threatened to pull out of the individual insurance market in Delaware if an adjustment was not obtained. Golden Rule and Aetna had not, however, provided the required 180-day notice of withdrawal from the Delaware individual market of the time of CMS’s decision. Some individual consumers and small business owners voiced objections to Commissioner Stewart’s application arguing it was a concession to the insurance companies and not in the best interest of Delaware consumers.
CMS, which has previously granted adjustment requests from five states and denied such a request from one state, North Dakota, denied Delaware’s request because the evidence presented did not establish that application of the 80 percent MLR standard would destabilize the Delaware individual market. Among other things, CMS found that Golden Rule and Aetna would remain “substantially profitable” even if they had to pay rebates as a result of not meeting the 80 percent MLR standard.