ACA Sabotage

I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.

Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these. In addition, in a few states the insurance department has also posted their own final/approved rate summary.

I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.

Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these. Making things even easier (although not necessarily better from an enrollee perspective), in three states the approved rates are exactly what the requested rates were for every carrier: Alabama, Mississippi and Utah:

This is about as minor a rate filing update as I've had, but I'm posting it separately in the interest of completeness.

Insurance carriers in my home state of Michigan originally submitted their requested 2019 ACA individual market rate filings back in June. At the time, the average premium increase being asked for was pretty nominal, around 1.7%, with a smaller-than-average #ACASabotage factor of around 5% due to the ACA's Individual Mandate being repealed and #ShortAssPlans being expanded by the Trump Administration.

Today, just two days before the 2019 Open Enrollment Period actually begins, the Michigan Dept. of Financial Services finally posted the approved 2019 rate filings...and practically nothing ended up changing.

OK, this is a pretty minor update, but in the interest of completeness I should post it.

In mid-September, the Washington State insurance commissioner posted the approved 2019 average ACA individual market premium changes for carriers statewide, coming in at 13.8% overall.

The only problem is that the report only included the seven on-exchange ACA market carriers. The four carriers which offer off-exchange policies (which are pretty much identical and are part of the same risk pool, but don't qualify for tax credits) weren't included. They make up roughly 23% of Washington State's total individual market.

Today, just a few days before Open Enrollment begins, the WA Insurance Commissioner posted the complete approved rate change information. The overall average has dropped slightly, to 13.6%:

Eleven insurers approved to sell 74 plans in Washington's 2019 individual market
13.57 percent average rate increase approved

October 29, 2018

As regular readers know, every spring/summer I spend countless hours poring over the annual insurance carrier rate filings, plugging in increases (and occasionally decreases) in ACA-compliant premium changes for every carrier in every state. I actually do this twice for most states (and occasionally even three times), as the process moves from preliminary/requested rate changes to "semifinal" rates to "final/approved" rates throughout the fall.

For 2018 and again for 2019, I've taken this one step further; instead of simply running the overall weighted average premium changes in each state, I've also attempted to break out what portion of the change is caused by various factors...in particular, what portion is caused by legislative or regulatory changes by Congressional Republicans and/or the Trump Administration.

 

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:

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