The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) introduced two subsidies for low- and moderate-income individuals to help make health insurance more affordable. These include premium subsidies to lower the initial purchase price of a policy and cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies to lower the cost sharing (e.g., deductibles, copays, etc.) absorbed by individuals at the time they receive care. CSR subsidies, however, are administered in a complicated manner. In many cases the federal government may not reimburse the full cost, leaving the remainder on the shoulders of health insurance companies.
This paper outlines the design of the CSR subsidies under the ACA and its implementing regulations. It then describes how, depending on the reimbursement methodology agreed upon between issuers and the federal government, the regulations as currently written may under-compensate issuers of silver-level plans. Issuers should consider the scenarios described in this paper when choosing one of the CSR reimbursement methodologies allowed by the federal government.