ACA Sabotage

2019 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

 

One of the great strengths and dangers of the ACA is that it includes tools for individual states to modify the law to some degree by improving how it works at the local level. The main way this can be done is something called a "Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver":

Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) permits a state to apply for a State Innovation Waiver to pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA.

State Innovation Waivers allow states to implement innovative ways to provide access to quality health care that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as would be provided absent the waiver, provides coverage to a comparable number of residents of the state as would be provided coverage absent a waiver, and does not increase the federal deficit.

OK, I had kind of forgotten about this. Back in early June, insurance carriers in Pennsylvania submitted their preliminary 2019 ACA market premium change requests. At the time, they averaged around a 4.9% increase statewide, which seemed pretty impressive under the circumstances.

Then, late July, the PA insurance department issued a press release stating that state regulators had modified the 2019 requests, and that the new, revised average was much lower...a mere 0.7% average rate hike. However, the individual carriers as well as the insurance department made it very clear that this nominal increase included a 6 point rate increase to account for the ACA's individual mandate being repealed and the Trump Administration's expansion of non-ACA compliant short-term and association plans.

I originally wrote about District of Columbia carrier requested 2019 ACA rate changes back in June. At the time, they were seeking a weighted average increase of around 15.5% across the District.

However, the DC exchange board was also working quickly in an attempt to counter the Trump Administration's #ACASabotage factors, by voting to restrict short-term plans, to lock in DC's Open Enrollment Period at a full 3 months as in years past, and to reinstate the ACA's individual mandate penalty at the local level.

As of early September, all of these things appeared to have been approved by the exchange board and/or the DC Council.

On September 19, the DC Dept. of Insurance, Securities & Banking posted the approved 2019 ACA rate changes, and the average increase for the individual market had been shaved down from 15.5% to 13.0%:

Not much more to add to this:

McConnell says Senate Republicans might revisit Obamacare repeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections next month, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday, calling a failed 2017 push to repeal the healthcare law a “disappointment.”

...except that the headline understates what McConnell actually said:

...On Nov. 6, Americans will vote for candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives.

McConnell’s Republicans now hold majority control of both chambers. Democrats will try to wrest control in races for all 435 House seats and one-third of the 100 Senate seats.

Despite their dominance of Congress and the White House, Republicans dramatically failed last year to overturn former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, known as Obamacare. McConnell called it “the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view.”

(image via Arkham City Wiki...artist unknown)

(note: this is a work in progress...check back soon for more additions.)

As I noted yesterday, as the 2018 midterm election rapidly approaches, there's been a sudden and complete change in strategy when it comes to healthcare policy campaiging by practically every Republican running for office this year. After nearly a decade of doing everything in their power to attack, undermine, sabotage, hack away at, trash and especially repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (that's the full title of the law, after all), GOP candidates have suddenly decided that "protecting coverage of pre-existing conditions" is a swell idea after all.

I analysed Kansas' 2019 ACA indy market rate changes back in August. The three carriers were requesting an average increase of around 6.1% (this may be slightly off since I had to estimate the market share for two of the three). State insurance regulators left Blue Cross Blue Shield and Ambetter's rate requests as is, but cut Medica's down by more than half, from a 10.7% increase to just 4.3%:

Premium Rates for Individual and Small Group Markets Individual plan premium rates may vary by age, rating area, family composition and tobacco usage. For example, a person living in Manhattan, KS (rating area 3) may pay a different rate than someone living in Pittsburg, KS (rating area 7) based on the claims data by rating area. A map of the counties included in each rating area is provided on the next page. Kansas is an effective rate review state, which means the actuarial review is conducted by the Kansas Insurance Department. KHIIS (Kansas Health Insurance Information System) claims data is utilized during the rate review process to verify the claims experience submitted by the companies. The following table provides details regarding the average requested rate revisions for companies writing individual policies in Kansas. Rate increases will be partially offset for individuals receiving a premium tax credit.

Back in June, Indiana's 3 individual market carriers submitted their requested 2019 ACA rate changes, which averaged around 5.1%. At the time I also pegged the impact of #ACASabotage on 2019 rates (mandate repeal + #ShortAssPlans) at around 13 percentage points.

This week I've found Indiana's approved 2019 rate changes for the individual and small group markets. State regulators cut the overall average increase for the individual market in half, to just 2.6%:

Last month, the Idaho Insurance Department posted the preliminary 2019 ACA individual market rate change requests. They were pretty straightforward, averaging around an 8% increase across the market.

A few days ago, the Idaho DOI issued their final/approved rate changes, knocking a few points off the hikes and bringing the weighted average increase down to 5%:

The Department of Insurance received preliminary 2019 health plan information from insurance carriers on June 1 and began reviewing the proposed plan documents and rates for compliance with Idaho and federal regulations. The Department of Insurance does not have the authority to set or establish insurance rates, but it does have the authority to deem rate increases submitted by insurance companies as reasonable or unreasonable. After the review and negotiation process, the carriers submit their final rate 2019 increase information. The public is invited to provide comments on the rate changes. Please send any comments to Idaho Department of Insurance.

Wisconsin has an interesting situation. On the one hand, the state has what should be a robust, highly-competitive individual insurance market,with over a dozen carriers offering policies throughout the state. Granted, some of them are likely limited to only a handful of counties, but in theory they should be doing pretty well compared to rural states like Oklahoma or Wyoming, which only have a single carrier on the exchange.

On the other hand, last year Wisconsin ahd among the highest average premium rate increases in the country. Rates were projected to increase by an already-awful 36%, but when the dust settled the average unsubsidized ACA enrollee in Wisconsin was paying a whopping 44% more than they did in 2017 (it was around 45.8% higher as of the end of Open Enrollment but later dropped a bit as the year has passed and net attrition has tweaked the enrollment base).

Less than 4 weeks away from the midterms, after a year and a half of doing everything possible to tear it down, the Trump Administration is suddenly thrilled with Obamacare. From HHS Secretary Alex Azar's chutzpah-filled Op-Ed in the Washington Post a few weeks back to Donald Trump's 870 word pile of steaming bullshit in USA Today this week, the Trumpsters are now gaslighting to a breathtaking degree.

The latest volley in their attempt to gaslight the country on healthcare is this morning's press release from CMS about 2019 ACA premiums. Let's take a look:

I ran the numbers for Illinois' requested 2019 ACA individual market rate changes back in August. At the time, the weighted year-over-year average was a mere 0.7% increase, with Cigna and Health Alliance's 10% and 7.5% being mostly cancelled out by Celtic's 1.1% and especially Blue Cross Blue Shield's slight drop of 0.9%. Since BCBSIL holds something like 3/4 of the state's individual market share, that alone mostly wiped out the other increases.

Unfortunately, I don't have access to the hard enrollment numbers, so this was a rough estimate based on 2017's breakout. Here's what it looked like at the time:

Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Insurance issued a press release with the final/approved 2019 ACA premium changes, but it's a bit vague about the hard numbers:

The Arizona insurance department posted their final, approved 2019 premium rate changes last week. There's only slight changes to the preliminary/requested rate changes from back in August, which averaged around a 5.3% rate reduction overall.

The final unsubsidized rates are down about one point more, down 6.3% from 2018 rates. However, as all three current carriers clearly noted in August, the repeal of the ACA's individual mandate and expansion of short-term and association health plans (aka #ShortAssPlans) still caused a significant premium increase, which means without those factors, 2019 rates would likely be down significantly more...likely nearly 20% instead of 6.3%:

With the 2019 Open Enrollment Period quickly approaching, I'm spending a lot of time swapping out the requested carrier rate changes from earlier this summer with the approved rate changes from state regulators.

Hawaii only has two carriers participating in the ACA-compliant individual market: HMSA and Kaiser, which requested rate increases of 2.72% and 28.6% respectively back in August. With a roughly 57/42 market share split, this resulted in a weighted average rate increase of 13.8%, which would likely have been closer to 3.8% if the ACA's individual mandate penalty hadn't been repealed.

Today, however, Louise Norris gave me a heads up to this bulletin from Hawaii's Commerce Department, in which they state that state regulators have chopped those rate hikes down significantly for 2019:

HAWAII 2019 AFFORDABLE CARE ACT INDIVIDUAL RATES

With just 3 weeks to go before the 2019 Open Enrollment Period begins, the dust has mostly settled on my 2019 Rate Hike Project. Over half the states have provided their final, approved individual market premium changes, and while I haven't found the final rates for the other half yet, their preliminary rates are all on record, so I don't anticipate the needle moving too much at this point.

New Hampshire is among the states which I haven't found final rate changes for yet. The three carriers in the state have requested average price reductions of around 13.5% on average, which is well below the 3.2% increase which is the average nationally, but I still don't know what the state regulators are going to approve.

This makes the following press release rather surprising:

NH Insurance Department to Hold Oct. 30 Annual Public Hearing on Health Insurance Premiums

 

I first wrote about this back in March, when Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D) introduced a new bill:

U.S. SENATOR TAMMY BALDWIN AIMS TO BLOCK PRESIDENT TRUMP’S PLAN TO ALLOW INSURERS TO SELL JUNK PLANS WITH LEGISLATION TO GUARANTEE PROTECTIONS FOR PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

“The Fair Care Act is an opportunity for lawmakers to keep their word on guaranteed protections for pre-existing conditions.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the Trump Administration’s recent proposed rule allowing insurance companies to once again sell ‘junk’ health care plans, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today announced new legislation to block the rule and guarantee protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

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