The HHS-HCC risk adjustment model for individual and small group markets under the Affordable Care Act

Medicare Medicaid Res Rev. 2014 May 9;4(3):mmrr2014-004-03-a03. doi: 10.5600/mmrr2014-004-03-a03. eCollection 2014.


Beginning in 2014, individuals and small businesses are able to purchase private health insurance through competitive Marketplaces. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides for a program of risk adjustment in the individual and small group 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 second of three in this issue of the Review that describe the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) risk adjustment methodology and focuses on the risk adjustment model. In our first companion article, we discuss the key issues and choices in developing the methodology. In this article, we present the risk adjustment model, which is named the HHS-Hierarchical Condition Categories (HHS-HCC) risk adjustment model. We first summarize the HHS-HCC diagnostic classification, which is the key element of the risk adjustment model. Then the data and methods, results, and evaluation of the risk adjustment model are presented. Fifteen separate models are developed. For each age group (adult, child, and infant), a model is developed for each cost sharing level (platinum, gold, silver, and bronze metal levels, as well as catastrophic plans). Evaluation of the risk adjustment models shows good predictive accuracy, both for individuals and for groups. Lastly, this article provides examples of how the model output is used to calculate risk scores, which are an input into the risk transfer formula. Our third companion paper describes the risk transfer formula.

Keywords: ACA; HHS-HCC model; affordable care act; health insurance marketplaces; hierarchical condition categories; plan liability; predict healthcare expenditures; risk adjustment; risk score.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cost Sharing / economics*
  • Health Insurance Exchanges / economics*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / economics
  • Insurance, Health / economics
  • Medicaid / economics*
  • Medicare / economics*
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act / economics*
  • Risk Adjustment / economics*
  • United States
  • United States Dept. of Health and Human Services