Pent-up demand likely to distort PPACA impact on premiums

Dan Cook | BenefitsPro | June 12, 2013


Forget about 2014 as the year we’ll find out the true cost of Obamacare. Because of an expected short-term jump in medical services usage, the baseline cost won’t be evident until at least 2016.

So says a report from HealthPocket, a firm that compares and ranks all available health plans.

HealthPocket wanted to know whether there was a pent-up demand for health services that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would release. So the company surveyed 1,356 U.S. adults, asking them: “Would better health insurance coverage lead you to see the doctor more often or get a medical procedure you had put off?”

The findings: While 57 percent said they would change the way they currently use health services, 15 percent said they’d elect to have a medical procedure done that they’d been postponing, and 27 percent said they’d definitely go to the doctor more frequently.

So, with 42 percent of respondents indicating they would increase their medical services usage, HealthPocket drew this conclusion:

“Insurance premiums in the second year of Obamacare, 2015, may experience a temporary rise due to the pent-up demand for medical procedures being addressed in 2014. Assuming a two-year period for consumers to exhaust pent-up healthcare demand, the true baseline for Obamacare’s effect upon health insurance premiums should be evident in 2016.”

HealthPocket further opined that the increase due to pent-up demand for a postponed procedure would disappear from the system by 2016. But the added cost of more frequent trips to the doctor’s office would remain, and the premium hike attributed to that should be identifiable during 2016.

The results are hot off the presses, by the way; the research was conducted from June 5-7.