The Incidental Economist writes that delaying the individual mandate wouldn’t include a so-called “death spiral” for the insurance industry — at least not for the first few years of Obamacare (emphasis mine):
I’ve argued in the past that delaying the individual mandate for a year wouldn’t provoke a full death spiral; it would be an uncomfortable hiccup, but it’s not enough time for the whole market to unravel. More importantly, there are deep-in-the-weeds protections baked into the Affordable Care Act: risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors.
These programs—collectively called the “three Rs”—aid insurers if they wind up enrolling a population that is sicker and more expensive than projected. They do a crucial bit of policy work: we want plans competing on efficiency and quality, not their ability to attract the healthiest patients.
The programs have related functions, but risk corridors will play the biggest role if the individual mandate does get delayed. Their entire purpose is to stabilize premiums during the first three years of Obamacare, when it’s especially difficult for insurers to price plans.
Here’s how it works: exchange plans (QHPs) projected how much their risk pool would cost overall in 2014, their “target” cost. If they’ve significantly miscalculated—or, say, if a mandate delay causes adverse selection that they couldn’t have predicted—HHS will take action…
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