Improving the Affordable Care Act

An Assessment of Policy Options for Providing Subsidies

Published in: Health Affairs, v. 34, no. 12, Dec. 2015, p. 2095-2103

Posted on on December 10, 2015

by Evan Saltzman, Christine Eibner, Alain C. Enthoven

Read More

Access further information on this document at Health Affairs

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

A key challenge of health reform efforts is to make health insurance affordable for individuals and families who lack coverage without harming those with coverage or increasing federal spending. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) addresses this challenge in part by providing tax subsidies to qualified individuals for purchasing individual insurance and retaining tax exemptions for employer and employee contributions to the cost of premiums of employer-sponsored insurance. These tax exemptions cost approximately $250 billion annually in lost tax revenue and have been criticized for favoring higher earners and conferring preferential treatment of employer-sponsored over individual insurance. We analyzed three options for leveling the financial playing field between the two insurance markets by reallocating the value of tax benefits of employer coverage. We found that one option that uses the subsidy formula employed in the insurance Marketplaces under the ACA for both the individual and employer-sponsored insurance markets, and additionally requires the subsidy to be at least $1,250 without an upper income limit on subsidy eligibility imposed, could expand insurance coverage and reduce individual market premiums relative to the ACA with no additional federal spending.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.