• Article

Risk transfer formula for individual and small group markets under the affordable care act

The Affordable Care Act provides for a program of risk adjustment in the individual and small group health insurance markets in 2014 as Marketplaces are implemented and new market reforms take effect. The purpose of risk adjustment is to lessen or eliminate the influence of risk selection on the premiums that plans charge. The risk adjustment methodology includes the risk adjustment model and the risk transfer formula.
This article is the third of three in this issue of the Medicare & Medicaid Research Review that describe the ACA risk adjustment methodology and focuses on the risk transfer formula. In our first companion article, we discussed the key issues and choices in developing the methodology. In our second companion paper, we described the risk adjustment model that is used to calculate risk scores. In this article we present the risk transfer formula. We first describe how the plan risk score is combined with factors for the plan allowable premium rating, actuarial value, induced demand, geographic cost, and the statewide average premium in a formula that calculates transfers among plans. We then show how each plan factor is determined, as well as how the factors relate to each other in the risk transfer formula. The goal of risk transfers is to offset the effects of risk selection on plan costs while preserving premium differences due to factors such as actuarial value differences. Illustrative numerical simulations show the risk transfer formula operating as anticipated in hypothetical scenarios.


Pope, G., Bachofer, H., Pearlman, A., Kautter, J., Hunter, E., Miller, D., & Keenan, P. (2014). Risk transfer formula for individual and small group markets under the affordable care act. Medicare & Medicaid Research Review, 4(3), E1-E23. https://doi.org/10.5600/mmrr.004.03.a04

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