In the wake of a windstorm that knocked out power to more than 400,000 Mainers, federal officials have agreed to give Mainers more time to enroll for health care under the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Sen. Angus King sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in November requesting an extended deadline for Mainers who spent the better part of a week in the dark without internet or computer access. On Friday, King shared the agency’s reply, which said Mainers likely would qualify for a special enrollment period, extending their enrollment deadline.
“CMS recognizes that certain exceptional circumstances, including a natural disaster such as a severe windstorm, can prevent an individual from enrolling in coverage before an open enrollment period expires,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in her reply to King.
Anthem leaving Maine ACA marketplace, citing uncertainty
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield has withdrawn nearly all of its offerings from Maine’s Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace, and the insurer is citing market uncertainty and volatility as the reasons.
The state of Maine's insurance regulatory agency has announced the approved 2018 individual market rate hikes for the three carriers operating in the state. Louise Norris beat me to the punch:
Regulators in Maine published rate proposals for the three Maine exchange insurers in June, and finalized the rates in early September. Insurers proposed two sets of rates: one that assumes cost-sharing reduction (CSR) funding will continue, and another that assumes the federal government will not fund CSRs in 2018.
The Maine Bureau of Insurance initially rejected all three insurers’ rate proposals on August 10, and asked them to submit new rates. The revised rate filings were then approved on September 1. These average approved rate increases all assume that CSR funding will continue in 2018:
The good news for me out of Maine is that they've released the filings for all three individual market carriers for 2018 (Aetna has around 1,000 enrollees but they're leaving the individual market entirely), and all three include the exact number of current enrollees, making the average rate hike request simple enough on the surface: 21.2% for Anthem, 39.7% for Harvard Pilgrim (HPHC) and 19.6% for Maine Community Health Options (one of the few remaining ACA-created CO-OPs*), for a weighted average unsubsidized increase request of 25.2%.
*UPDATE: My mistake! I accidentally confused MCHO with Evergreen Heatlh of Maryland, which is in the process of converting itself from a Co-Op into a private carrier! Thanks to Louise Norris for the catch!
As I noted when I crunched the numbers for Texas, it's actually easier to figure out how many people would lose coverage if the ACA is repealed in non-expansion states because you can't rip away healthcare coverage from someone who you never provided it to in the first place.
My standard methodology applies:
Plug in the 2/01/16 QHP selections by county (hard numbers via CMS)
Project QHP selections as of 1/31/17 based on statewide signup estimates
Knock 10% off those numbers to account for those who never end up paying their premiums
Multiply the projected effectuated enrollees as of March by the percent expected to receive APTC subsidies
Then knock another 10% off of that number to account for those only receiving nominal subsidies
Whatever's left after that are the number of people in each county who wouldn't be able to afford their policy without tax credits.
In the case of Maine, assuming 86,000 people enroll in exchange policies by the end of January, I estimate around 61,000 of them would be forced off of their policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal.
Normally I post screenshots from the revised/updated SERFF filings and/or updates at RateReview.HealthCare.Gov, but it takes forever and I think I've more than established my credibility on this sort of thing, so forgive me for not doing so here. Besides, #OE4 is approaching so rapidly now that this entire project will become moot soon enough, as people start actually shopping around and finding out just what their premium changes will be for 2017.
The other reason I'm not too concerned about documenting the latest batch of updates/additional data is because in the end none of it is making much of a difference to the larger national average anyway; no matter how the individual carrier rates jump around in various states, the overall, national weighted average still seems to hover right around the 25% level.
Still, for the record, here's the latest...in four states (Iowa, Indiana, Maine & Tennessee) I've just updated the requested and/or approved average increases. In the other four (Massachusetts, Montana, North & South Dakota) I've added the approved rate hikes as well.
Since then there have been two major changes: First, Aetna, which had been planning on entering the Maine ACA exchange, infamously pulled a complete 180 and not only decided not to expand, but actually pulled out of the exchange in most of the states they're already in. This doesn't really impact Maine since they were only available off-exchange anyway. The second change does, however: Several of the carriers submitted revised requests, pushing the average up higher, to 23.9%.
A couple of days ago I noted that after two years of nothing but doom & gloom (and coming just a week after UnitedHealthcare pulled the plug on the individual market in over two dozen states) there seems to finally be some positive developments, with companies like Centene and Anthem reporting better-than-expected results. They may not be making a profit yet, but at least they aren't losing money hand over fist the way they did the first couple of years.
I also made a brief mention of the Maryland Co-Op, Evergreen Health, which reported their first quarterly profit since launching 2 1/2 years ago.
Consumer operated and oriented health plans in Maryland, New Mexico and Massachusetts will report profits in the first quarter, in a sign that some of the remaining Affordable Care Act-created nonprofits could be finding their footing on the state exchanges.
(sigh) OK, this one is not related to the Risk Corridor Massacre, since Community Health Options was actually profitable in 2014 and therefore never qualified for any RC payments anyway. Also, unlike the dozen ACA-created co-ops which are in the process of winding down operations by the end of the year, CHO is not going out of business, and in fact is remaining fully operational for 2016.
Maine's Community Health Options said Dec. 9 that it will cut short its sales of individual policies for 2016, in a sign that it is the latest Affordable Care Act-funded consumer operated and oriented plan to encounter financial difficulties.
I admit that given the carnage of the past couple of weeks, I'm almost afraid to post this entry...but I had to write something positive about the CO-OP situation.
With the ACA-created CO-OPs seemingly dropping like flies due to the #RiskCorridorMassacre, I thought this would be a good time to flip things around and look at which CO-OPs are doing well (or at least not badly).
This isn't much, but it'll do for now:
Wisconsin's insurance department says it has no intention of shutting down its #ACA co-op, which appears it will remain solvent next year.
Most Mainers buying Affordable Care Act insurance will see modest increases in their premiums for 2016, below the national average and much lower than the double-digit increases projected in some cities by a recent study of initial rate filings.
About 80 percent of the 75,000 Mainers purchasing ACA marketplace insurance have a plan through Lewiston-based Community Health Options – formerly Maine Community Health Options. The ACA marketplace, operated on the Web as healthcare.gov, is where those without insurance – often part-time or self-employed workers – can obtain subsidized benefits.
But LePage has also tried to take advantage of a wording error with the 2013 law funding energy efficiency programs. While lawmakers wanted $60 million spent to help homemakers use less energy heating their homes, the snafu would have reduced that to $22 million—less than half.
The text error in Maine involved just one word left out—"and." However, it wasn’t just the wording that mattered but also a decision from a body controlled by his appointees, the Maine Public Utility Commission, that ruled 2-1 that there would be far less money for efficiency projects than legislators wanted.
The error came down to this, according to the Portland Press Herald: