Dover, DE -- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware (Highmark BCBS) has submitted its required annual rate filing to the Delaware Department of Insurance. After years of substantial increases, Delaware’s Marketplace has stabilized and premiums have decreased. Highmark BCBS, the only insurer continuing to offer insurance coverage in Delaware’s individual market, has proposed a 5.8% decrease for 2020. The proposed 2020 rate decrease will affect over 20,000 Delawareans.
The decrease comes after last year’s 3% rate increase and the Department’s decision to silver load. By applying the rate increase to silver level plans only, a practice known as ‘silver-loading,’ Delaware’s Marketplace received more federal subsidies, helping to assist in stabilizing the market and lowering premiums.
Legislation calls for reinsurance program to aid people with extremely high health insurance premiums
Lawmakers have introduced legislation this week that would create a reinsurance program to help lower the cost of premiums for Delawareans who do not get insurance through their employers.
House Bill 176, which has no Republican co-sponsors, would stabilize the individual health insurance market and help Delawareans struggling with extremely highhealthcare costs to get relief, a release from House Democrats stated.
Delaware is pretty cut & dried: There's only one carrier, Highmark, offering ACA policies in the state. They're requesting a 13.0% average rate increase for 2019, and yes, they call out both the individual mandate being repealed and #ShortAssPlans being expanded by Trump and the GOP.
Unfortunately, they've redacted the specific percentages caused by those factors. The Urban Institute pegs it at 19.9%, but I err on the side of caution and only assume 2/3 of that amount, or right around...13%. If accurate, that means Highmark BCBSD would be keeping rates pretty much flat next year if those changes hadn't been made.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield's 2018 Affordable Care Act marketplace prices will rise by 25 percent, less than it had requested.
The insurer had asked the Department of Insurance for a 33.6 percent increase in June, one month after Aetna announced it would pull out of Delaware's marketplace. The withdrawal will end its coverage of 11,854 Delawareans and make Highmark the only insurance provider in the Delaware marketplace.
...Right now, about 27,000 Delawareans have health insurance through the marketplace. The rate increases will not affect Medicare, Medicaid or coverage by private and government employers.
...Highmark's rate request was based on the uncertain future of Obamacare, especially whether the federal government would or would not enforce the mandate that makes uninsured people either opt in or pay a tax penalty, or continue to make the cost sharing reduction payments, which helps reduce prices for low-income Americans.
Calculating the average requested rate hike in Delaware is easier than most states. This year they officially have 5 carriers participating in the individual market (3 on exchange, 2 off)...but one of those is "Freedom Life" which is a phantom carrier; another is Golden Rule which only has about 120 enrollees; and two of the others are divisions of Aetna, which is dropping out of Delaware's indy market next year altogether. That leaves just Highmark BCBS, unless Golden Rule has surprised me by enrolling a significant number of people off-exchange this year.
In Delaware, assuming 30,000 people enroll in private exchange policies by the end of January, I estimate around 20,000 of them would be forced off of their private policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal, plus another 10,000 enrolled in the ACA Medicaid expansion program (PPT), for a total of 30,000 residents kicked to the curb.
As for the individual market, my standard methodology applies:
Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart today released Delaware’s Qualified Health Plan average rates for Plan Year 2017.
The Commissioner recommended approval of a 32.5 % average rate increase in the individual market for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware. The approved average rate increase for the small group market for Highmark’s plans is 2.74%.
Aetna Life Insurance Company received an average of 22.8 % increase in the individual market and Aetna Health Insurance Company received an average increase of 23.6 %. In the small group market, Aetna Life received an average increase of 15.2 % and Aetna Health received an average increase of 19.7 %.
Delaware is a small state, and only has a total of 4 carriers offering individual polcies (2 on exchange, 2 off). One of those, however, is once again "Freedom Life" which, once again, is asking for precisely a 17.37% rate hike on their almost-certain-to-be-nonexistent enrollees. So...never mind them. That leaves Aetna (split into HMOs and PPOs) and Highmark BCBS offering policies on the exchange, and Golden Rule off the exchange.
Unfortunately, I can't find Golden Rule's actual current enrollment number, but as you can see below, it really doesn't matter:
As you can see, no matter how many enrollees Golden Rule has, their 30.3% average hike request is very close to the 30.6% average of the other carriers. The very most it could do is nudge the weighted average down by a tenth of a point or two, so let's call it 30.5%.
There's an old saying: Figures lie and liars figure. Statistics and percentages are a funny thing; as politicians of every stripe know, you can often twist them to mean whatever you like, especially when you don't provide proper (or sometimes any) context whatsoever. Case in point: Yesterday's embarrassingly dishonest "chart" presented by Representative Jason Chaffetz at the Planned Parenthood witchhunt committee hearing.
For a less inflamatory example of this, consider the headline of this entry:
Delaware: *Approved* 2016 rate hikes reduced by 11.4%!!
At first glance, of course, it looks like I'm saying that after going through the regulatory approval process, the individual health insurance premium rates in Delaware are being reduced by 11.4% next year! Hooray!
Delaware's 2016 rate hike analysis is about as simple and straightforward as it gets: Two companies (Aetna and Highmark BCBS) for both the individual and small group market, both on- and off-exchange, period...and their website includes the actual affected enrollee tallies for each, giving weighted totals:
Ugh. Nearly 25% requested for the individual market, just under 10% for the small group market. Of course these are requests only, so they might be slashed somewhat by regulators yet.
Pennsylvania became the first state Tuesday to publicly put in motion a back-up plan to protect its federal health insurance subsidies in the event the Supreme Court dismantles a key part of President Obama’s health care law.
State officials say they don't yet know how enrollment is going this year in Delaware's health insurance exchange.
The Delaware Health Care Commission received an update Thursday on the second year of implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
But state health and social services officials say won't be able report any enrollment numbers until they get them from the federal government. They say they hope to see the first monthly federal report around later this month.
I did receive these oddly-worded tidbits via Twitter:
More than 23,612 Delawareans have enrolled in a #ACA plan since October 2013#netDE