Last November, along with voting to keep a Democrat in the Governor's office, Virginia voters also swept a huge wave of Democrats into office in the state legislature. They didn't quite take a majority, but they came within a single vote of taking the state Assembly, matching their one-vote shortfall in the state Senate.
A prominent Republican state legislator from southwest Virginia announced his support Thursday for expanding Medicaid, an about-face that could make it easier for other rural conservatives to get on board after four years of steadfast opposition.
On the other hand, assuming there isn't enough time to re-set the premiums back to "CSRs funded" levels for 2018, that means that prices will spike for next year ...and then presumably would drop by about 15-20% starting in 2019, just in time for the midterms. If that happens, I guarantee that the GOP will run around trying to claim that they "fixed" Obamacare and "saved" the American public from spiraling premiums, bla bla bla. Of course they'll try to do that whether it kicks in for 2018 or 2019, but if prices go up this year and drop next, it'll make for much more dramatic campaign ads.
Trump, of course, will claim to have "saved" (or even "repealed") Obamacare no matter when anything kicks into effect. If the deal falls through, of course, he'll once again blame everyone but himself as he always does.
From the Cabinet Meeting scene in the comedy "Dave":
DAVE: Now the Commerce Department..,
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (sitting erect): Yes, Mr. President?
DAVE (from a card): You're spending forty-seven million dollars on an ad campaign to... (reading) 'Boost consumer confidence in the American auto industry.'
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Um...yes, sir...it's designed to bolster individual confidence in a previous domestic automotive purchase.
DAVE: So we're spending forty-seven million dollars so someone can feel better about a car they've already bought?
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Yes, sir, but I wouldn't characterize it that way...
DAVE (indignant): Well I'm sure that's really important, but I don't want to tell some eight- year-old kid he's got to sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their cars. (beat) Do you want to tell him that?
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (quietly): No sir...(looks at TV cameras)...no sir, I sure don't.
This isn't normally the sort of thing I write about, but gun violence is absolutely a healthcare policy issue, whether you're talking about the physical injuries, rehabilitation, mortality rates, psychological/emotional trauma or, of course, mental health. But even if it wasn't, I really don't care; I'm posting this anyway:
Before I get to the post itself, I’m aware that there are a lot of sick people out there who create/post fake accounts about this sort of thing (and of course these days there's also the whole "Russian bot" crap which we have to deal with on a regular basis). However, I'm about as confident as I can be that this is legit without getting into “doxing” territory.
OK, let me get this out of the way up front: Yes, this is pretty self-serving of me, and kind of stupid, but it's something which has been bugging me for four years now, so I finally decided to do something about it.
As longtime readers know, ACA Signups didn't start out as a full website. Originally it consisted entirely of a Google Docs spreadsheet with a domain name pointing to it. The domain wasn't even ACASignups.net; I started out using ObamacareSignups.net, which still repoints to the site today. I changed it after the first month or so not because I have a problem with "Obamacare" but because ACASignups.net is simply faster to type out.
The ACA Signups project actually started out as a series of blog posts over at Daily Kos, one of the largest online progressive political sites in the country, where I had already been posting under the name Brainwrap on any number of issues for nearly a decade.
President Trump’s budget plan released Monday endorsed an Obamacare repeal and replace bill that gives funding to states and makes cuts to Medicaid.
...Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., are behind the legislation that takes Obamacare’s funding for the Medicaid expansion and tax subsidies for lower premiums and gives it to states through block grants. The senators introduced the bill in September along with Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.
The bill would end the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare but supporters say states can implement it individually if they want. However, the bill makes cuts to Medicaid overall by capping federal funding per beneficiary.
The bill failed to get enough support in Congress in September, as some senators from expansion states worried about Medicaid cuts and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
According to this article from last May, the total budget for operating HealthCare.Gov, the federal ACA marketplace/exchange which covers 39 states,was around $2.1 billion in 2016. Donald Trump proposed slashing the budget down by about 20% to $1.7 billion in 2017.
OK, that's not quite true; the 3.5% only applies to the 34 states which are fully operated by the federal exchange; there are 5 states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon) which have their own exchange operations but "piggyback" on HC.gov's technical platform; those states were charged just 1.5% of premiums in 2017 and 2.0% for 2018. However, those 5 states combined only make up around 5% of all HC.gov enrollments, so the lower fees only knock perhaps 2% off the total user fee revenue.
So @SenatorCollins sold out for bills which won’t help much and aren’t gonna happen anyway.@jeffflake sold out for a promise to attend a meeting which won’t happen.@lisamurkowski sold out for destroying her own environment.@SenJohnMcCain sold out for...nothing at all. Huh.
On October 1st, 2013, the first Open Enrollment Period (OE1) under the Affordable Care Act kicked off to much hoopla. As everyone knows, the largest of the ACA exchange websites, HealthCare.Gov, infamously melted down at launch due to a multitude of hardware and software problems ranging from insufficient server capacity to poor workflow design to buggy coding and much, much more. However, as Steven Brill detailed in the March 10, 2014 issue of Time magazine, by early December, the worst of the problems had been resolved, and by the time the second Open Enrollment Period came along a year later, HealthCare.Gov had been completely overhauled, with additional improvements and enhancements every year since.
The difference has been dramatic: On October 1, 2013, only six people (not six thousand or six hundred...six) were able to actually make it all the way through the HC.gov interface and enroll in a healthcare policy. On December 15, 2016, six hundred and seventy thousand enrolled.
Wellmark spurns Obamacare exchange, but two competitors don't
Moderate-income Iowans who want to use Affordable Care Act subsidies to purchase health insurance still won't be able to choose policies from Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield next year. But they should be offered policies from at least two competitors.
One of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act's Three-Legged Stool's "Blue Leg" is the prohibition of caps on annual or lifetime benefits. When you consider that a baby born prematurely or a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy can eat up several million dollars worth of care within a few months, this makes perfect sense. Even a moderately wealthy family can be brought down by high medical costs, and a middle class family can be financially wiped out. If you're lower income, don't even get me started.
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Patty Murray, are pushing to increase the Affordable Care Act's subsidies as part of a stabilization bill being renegotiated with Sen. Lamar Alexander. This would mean increasing the amount of financial assistance people receive, as well as making it available to more people.
...“We’re interested in both expanding access to subsidies and increasing their value. You’ve got two different sets of populations that will be impacted in different ways depending on how cost sharing” is structured, a Democratic aide told me.
Welp. In the end, enough Democrats joined Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House to pass a massive spending bill in the dead of night. Donald Trump signed it into law early this morning.
Needless to say, I'm not happy at all about a major missing piece of the bill: The DREAM act, which would protect around 690,000 young adults who were brought to the United States as children, was not part of the bill. The Dems in the Senate were able to lock in a formal immigration debate which will presumably be focused in large part on DACA and the Dreamers, but there was no such guaranteed baked in on the House side by Speaker Paul Ryan. Personally, I'm pretty disappointed with the 73 Dems who folded on the issue, but the fight isn't over yet.
Most states dropped a bit year over year in 2017 in large part due to the Trump administration cutting off outreach/marketing during the critical final week, but Louisiana saw the worst year over year drop. Why? Well, the most obvious reason was pretty simple: The state expanded Medicaid halfway through the year.
The reality is that as much as everyone complains about the $695 or 2.5% income individual mandate penalty for NOT having qualifying healthcare coverage, the penalty should really be increased. There, I said it. The problem is that if the penalty is significantly less than the amount that the premiums would be, some people will still decide to eat the tax instead of signing up.
UPDATE: (sigh) OK, it looks like the final number for the District of Columbia was slightly too low; I've received official notice from the DC exchange that it was actually 22,584, 115 enrollments higher than the NASHP report pegged it at. The Graph and spreadsheet below have both been updated...
OK, here it is...
This morning Covered California issued their final 2018 ACA Open Enrollment numbers. I was a bit disappointed to discover that instead of beating out last year slightly, they ended up coming about 2.3% short year over year...but there's a very good reason for that: Like Maryland, California not only utilized the full "Silver Switcharoo" strategy with individual market premiums, they actively encouraged current UNSUBSIDIZED on-exchange Silver enrollees to switch to off-exchange Silver plans instead.
Last year Covered CA's 1/31 total hit 1,556,676 (or just under 15,000 enrollees higher). In 2016 they had their all-time high of 1,575,340, so they'd have to have tacked on about 34,000 more over the final 10 days of Open Enrollment this year in order to beat their record.
Now that the 2018 Open Enrollment period is officially over in every state +DC, I've started compiling more detailed demographic breakouts of the data on a state-by-state basis. The official CMS report from the Assistant Secretary for Planning & Evaluation (ASPE) report should be released at some point in the next couple of weeks, but until then, I'll have to settle for whatever reports I can patch together from some of the state-based exchanges.
So far I've dug up final (or near final) data for six states: Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State. Collectively, these states only represent about 890,000 2018 exchange enrollees, or roughly 7.5% of the 11.8 million total, so I have no idea how representative they are nationally, but it's all I have to work with for the moment.
Maryland was originally one of 3 state-based exchanges which stuck to the "official" half-length, December 15th Open Enrollment Period deadline this time around. However, with just 2 days to go before the original deadline, the MD Health Connection announced that they had decided to bump out their deadline by an extra week after all, through December 22nd.
I want to be clear about something: Much of my data analysis has a bit of snark to it, adding an acrid tinge of dark humor to healthcare, a topic which is often fraught with pain, suffering, grief and sadness. Once in awhile I take pause before twisting the sarcasm knife too much.
This is one of those moments. I'm therefore limiting the snark to the headline only.
Three Januarys ago, Gov. Rick Snyder described a River of Opportunity all Michiganders could enter as long as the state improved third-grade reading proficiency.
“One of the important metrics in someone’s life on the River of Opportunity is the ability to be proficient-reading by third grade,” he said in January 2015. “How have we done? We were at 63% in 2010, and we are at 70% today. … But 70% doesn’t cut it.”
Over the past month or so, former CMS Administrator and healthcare hero Andy Slavitt has been urging people to fill out a sparsely worded, cryptic online form if they're interested in "making our nation's health care system work better for all Americans."
There are too many agendas that aren’t about making health care work for all Americans. We need to put health care over politics again.
Within a month, a major initiative will be announced that I and many Americans will come together for. If interested... https://t.co/7BBDUS2J8u
From Alleigh Marre, HHS Dept. National Spokesperson, less than an hour ago (h/t Kimberly Leonard for the heads up):
"Even Charles Gaba, the author of ACAsignups.net admits in his analysis, “The simple truth is: Yes, full-price, unsubsidized premiums for individual market healthcare policies probably have doubled since 2013…” His analysis of the report drives home that Obamacare’s one-size-fits all mandates and regulations have driven up prices for all."
NOTE: The last few paragraphs of this post have been reformatted for clarity only.
All of Twitter is abuzz with this tweet (since deleted) by Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan:
A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year. https://t.co/yLX1Bod1j0
Idaho is one of only 2 state-based exchanges which stuck with the "official" December 15th deadline for the 2018 Open Enrollment Period (the other was Vermont). Unfortunately, they haven't released an official, detailed demographic breakout report yet, but they did discuss some relevant stats in their December board meeting...which, as it happens, took place on December 15th, which means it's still missing a bit of final data. For now this is the best I can do:
d) Enrollment Update
Mr. Kelly said YHI’s goal in enrollments is to be flat year-over-year, and it is within reach. When we look at average enrollments for 2017 of around 90,000 Idahoan’s, we appear to be ahead of that for 2018. As of this morning, we have almost 96,000 enrollments. This week alone, we have gained over 6,000 enrollments, way ahead of our growth for the same time last year. We also had well over 2,100 calls into the support center yesterday.
Indiana Adds Work Requirement To Medicaid, Will Block Coverage If Paperwork Is Late
Indiana on Friday became the second state to win federal approval to add a work requirement for adult Medicaid recipients who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. A less debated provision in the state's new plan could lead to tens of thousands of people losing coverage if they fail to complete paperwork documenting their eligibility for the program.
The federal approval was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in Indianapolis.
Medicaid participants who fail to promptly submit paperwork showing they still qualify for the program will be locked out of enrollment for three months, according to updated rules.
At this point, the only significant top-line 2018 Open Enrollment numbers missing are the final 10 days out of California (which could add perhaps 40,000 to the total) and a solid month of enrollment from the District of Columbia (23 days, actually, but they extended their deadline by 5 extra days, which may or may not be included in the final, official report from CMS). DC's tally through 1/08 was 21,352 QHP selections. Their all-time high was around 22,700 set in 2016, so I can't imagine that they added more than perhaps 2,000 more since 1/08. In other words, about 99.5% of the 2018 OEP QHP selections have likely been accounted for.
That means it's time to move on to...breaking down the demographic data! Woo-hoo! Parrrr-tyyyy!!
The big, official CMS report from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) presumably won't be released for a couple of weeks, but some of the state-based exchanges are faster about posting their demographics. First up: Connecticut!
OK, this may seem kind of silly; data that I've compiled has been cited/quoted by any number of publications, news stories, healthcare wonks and so forth over the past 4+ years, so I suppose this really shouldn't be that big of a deal to me.
Last year, after 7 years of doing everything in their power to undermine, sabotage and weaken the ACA, Congressional Republicans tried every which way they could to repeal the law. They tried passing AHCA , B-CRAP, ORRA, Graham-Cassidy and a few other variants along the way to no avail.
Finally, in late December, desperate for a win on "repealing Obamacare"--any type of win--they said "screw it" and just repealed the ACA's individual mandate all by itself. They didn't replace it with a reasonable inducement for people to get covered, mind you, against the advice of actuarial expert advice, mind you; they just...got rid of it.
The vote to repeal the mandate penalty was incredibly short-sighted and will almost certainly lead to negative consequences when it actually goes into effect (which won't be until next year, causing much confusion until then, but that's a different discussion)...but at least it's legal.