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Prof studies individual health stickiness

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The persistency of U.S. individual health insurance business might have been low even before Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rules started taking effect.

Dr. Benjamin Sommers – Harvard University economist and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services planning office advisor – makes that argument in a paper published by Health Affairs, a health policy academic journal.

PPACA critics drew attention to a wave of individual and family health insurance policy cancellations in late 2013.

Sommers says one problem with the cancellation reports is that no one seemed to have data on how many people had been losing non-group coverage before.

Sommers tried to come up with baseline non-group coverage loss data by looking at census data collected from 2008 and 2011.

Only 42 percent of the people who reported having individual or family coverage at some point during the study period still had it 12 months later, Sommers writes.

“Even before [PPACA] was implemented, nearly 80 percent of adults experienced a change in coverage within two years,” Sommers writes.

About 80 percent of the non-group coverage holders replaced it with something else, such as employer-sponsored group health benefits, Sommers says.

This year, some have estimated 4.7 million people may have lost coverage due to PPACA-related policy cancellations in 2013, Sommers writes.

The people making those estimates might be capturing a great deal of the normal market turnover, Sommers says.

“The findings presented here also suggest that overall coverage rates in the United States are unlikely to fall as a result of these cancellations,” Sommers says.

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