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Improving the Performance of Risk Adjustment Systems

Thomas G. McGuire, Anna L. Zink and Sherri Rose

American Journal of Health Economics, 2021, vol. 7, issue 4, 497 - 521

Abstract: Modifications of risk adjustment systems used to pay health plans in individual health insurance markets typically seek to reduce selection incentives at the individual and group levels by adding variables to the payment formula. Adding variables can be costly and can lead to unintended incentives for upcoding or service utilization. While these drawbacks are recognized, they are hard to quantify and difficult to balance against the concrete, measurable improvements in fit that may be achieved by adding variables to the formula. This paper takes a different approach to improving the performance of health plan payment systems. Using the HHS-HHC V0519 model from the Marketplaces as a starting point, we constrain fit at the individual and group levels to be as good or better than the current payment model while reducing the number of variables in the model. We introduce three elements in the design of plan payment: reinsurance, constrained regressions, and machine learning methods for variable selection. The fit performance of our alternative formulas with many fewer variables is as good or better than the current HHS-HHC V0519 formula.

Date: 2021
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