Busy day today! State insurance regulators around the country appear to have decided to start posting approved 2019 ACA rate filings all at once; within the past week, Vermont, Ohio, Delaware and North Carolina have posted theirs...and now you can add Georgia to the list:
The Obamacare rates for next year are in, and it’s a first: Rates are going down.
Following years of steep price hikes, two of the four companies that offer plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange in Georgia, also known as Obamacare, have proposed to lower their rates next year from what they charged in 2018.
According to figures for the individual insurance market released Thursday by the state Department of Insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia is proposing a tiny decrease in premiums for next year, with 2019 premium prices that are on average 0.3 percent lower than 2018’s premiums. Alliant Health Plans is decreasing its premiums by 10 percent.
The Department of Health and Human Services is urging states to cooperate with the federal government, but instead, insurance commissioners are panning the new plans as "junk” insurance and state legislatures are putting restrictions on their sales.
State insurance officials argue that, despite being less expensive than ObamaCare plans, the short-term plans are bad for consumers and aren't an adequate substitute for comprehensive insurance.
“These policies are substandard, don’t cover essential health benefits, and consumers at a minimum don’t understand [what they’re buying], and at worse are misled,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) said.
The good news was that average unsubsidized 2019 ACA individual market premiums were expected to drop by about 5.7% after years of double-digit rate hikes.
The bad news was that due specifically to various types of deliberate sabotage by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans (primarily repeal of the individual mandate and expansion of #ShortAssPlans), that 5.7% drop was still a good 12 points or so higher than it otherwise would have been.
The ugly news was that due specifically to the Trump Administration's utterly unnecessary decision to freeze Risk Adjustment fund transfers in response to a lawsuit out of New Mexico, 2019 premiums would be hundreds of dollars higher still than they should have been for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee's 113,000 enrollees:
As regular readers know, each year I analyze hundreds of insurance carrier rate filings for the following year, then crunch the numbers to get an estimate of how much average premiums will increase (or in a few cases, decrease!) statewide.
As they also know, last year and again this year I've expanded on this by breaking out the portion of the annual rate increase which can be tied directly to sabotage efforts by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans. For 2018, this boiled down to roughly 17 points of the total nationwide increase being sabotage-related. It varied greatly by state, carrier and plan, but nationally, I estimated that without last year's ACA sabotage efforts, average premiums would have gone up around 11% instead of around 28%.
Assuming just 2/3 of that to play it safe, that still means that unsubsidized enrollees would have been looking at roughly a 12% drop in their 2019 premiums without those measures...a difference of over $120/month, or a whopping $1,400 more apiece next year. Ouch.
The most noteworthy thing about West Virginia's 2019 filings that I can see is that CareSource is expanding their state coverage from 10 counties to 35 counties, and the confirmation that West Virginia will remain one of the few states sticking with a Broad Load CSR strategy for reasons unknown next year (the state insurance commissioner might change their tune, however, now that CMS has done a complete 180 degree turn and has officially come out in favor of Silver Switching).
In any event, the statewide average premium hike appears to be around 14.9%...but once again, much of this is due to the ACA's individual mandate being repealed and Trump opening the floodgates on #ShortAssPlans.
At $843/month, West Virginia has one of the highest average monthly premiums in the country...and instead of only going up nominally next year, thanks to #ACASabotage, unsubsidized enrollees will likely have to pay a whopping $1,300 more apiece next year.
Utah has four carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market plans. Two of them (BridgeSpan and Regence BCBS) only offered their policies off-exchange this year; I'm not sure what the status is for either one in 2019. I can only find hard enrollment data for one of the four (Regence), so I'm estimating the other three based on a combination of last year's numbers and the total estimated individual market size in Utah from 2017. Because of this, consider the Utah estimates to be even rougher than some other states.
Having said that, there's one interesting extra sabotage factor to consider for the University of Utah rate filing: They note that they've added an extra 10.3% to their 2019 rates specifically tied to last year's Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) cut-off. I presume they chose not to bake the CSR load into their rates this year, but I don't think Utah went the "mixed load" route so who knows?
In any event, as far as I can tell, this means around a 14-point #ACASabotage factor, between CSR load, mandate repeal and #ShortAssPlans.
South Dakota has two ACA indy market carriers, Avera and Sanford. The relative enrollment market shares are based on last year's numbers. The 14.4% #ACASabotage impact assumes 2/3 of the Urban Institute's projections to err on the side of caution.
THe average unsubsidized SD indy market enrollee pays $624/month this year; instead of that dropping by around $68/month, it's expected to increase by $22...for a total monthly difference of $90.
Assuming that's accurate, this means unsubsidized SD residents will be paying over $1,000 more apiece next year than they'd otherwise have to.
The only confusing thing about South Carolina's 2019 rate filings is that I'm not sure whether the "BlueChoice Health Plan" should be rolled in with the main Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC population. Carriers often have multiple listings in the same state for different policy lines, but they're generally listed under the same official corporate name. In this case, "BlueChoice" (which is clearly still part of BCBS) has a completely seaparate listing.
The BCBS filing clearly states the number of enrollees as around 203,000 people. The BlueChoice listing doesn't give a membership number, but appears to be roughly 6,800 people based on the full premium dollars they received in all of 2017 ($53.5 million divided by 12 months, divided by the statewide average of $654/month this year). This doesn't really make much difference, however, since BCBS still holds nearly 99% of the market anyway.
Assuming an 11.5% #ACASabotage factor (mandate repeal + shortassplans), this translates into unsubsidized enrollees having to pay an extra $900 than they'd otherwise have to (a 9.2% rate increase instead of a 2.3% rate drop).
Oklahoma is pretty clear cut: BCBSOK holds nearly all of the ACA-compliant market share, with CommunityCare HMO having a small number of off-exchange enrollees (the numbers are estimates based on last year's figures).
Unsubsidized Oklahoma enrollees are paying an average of $694/month in 2018. Without ACA sabotage, they'd likely see this drop to around $595; instead, they're likely looking at paying roughly $681/month, or an additional $1,033 apiece.
In direct response to this, Medica Health Plans dropped out of the ND on-exchange individual market this year to avoid taking the CSR hit. They hung around the off-exchange market, however, and therefore still have about 600 enrollees in the state.
New Hampshire is perhaps the most striking example of both insurance carriers significantly overshooting the mark for 2018 premiums while also proving my point that just because premiums are dropping next year, #ACASabotage is still causing unsubsidized enrollees to pay a lot more than they'd have to otherwise.
All three of the carriers offering ACA policies on New Hampshire's individual market are reducing their 2019 premiums, by anywhere from 7.4% for Harvard Pilgrim to a whopping 15.2% in the case of Ambetter/Celtic.
THe enrollee market share numbers come from the monthly report from the New Hampshire insurance department (I'd love it if every state required one of these...it includes both on and off-exchange enrollees). The "PAP" column refers to NH residents enrolled in their "private option" Medicaid expansion program...but those are still part of the same risk pool as the other enrollees, so they still have to be factored into the market share formula.
Nebraska is about as simple as it gets--there's only one carrier offering ACA individual market plans. Unfortunately, they've redacted the combined average rate change request between their two plan entries, so all I can do is split the difference and assume around a 1% average increase.
The Urban Institute projected that Nebraska rates would see a whopping 20.4 percentage point increase due to #MandateRepeal and #ShortAssPlans, which are both referenced in Medica's filing. Since they don't get more specific than that, I'm assuming 2/3 of Urban's estimate, or a 13.6% increase.
Unsubsidized Nebraska enrollees are currently paying an average of $854/month, so if accurate, that's a difference of around $116/month or nearly $1,400 for the year. Ouch.
Mississippi is pretty easy: Only two carriers. I have no idea what their relative market share is (the enrollment data along with a lot of other stuff is redacted in their filings), but in this case it really doesn't matter because both of the carriers are requesting nearly identical rate changes anyway...which is to say, just about no change whatsoever.
The Urban Institute projected that #MandateRepeal and #ShortAssPlans would add a 17.2 percentage point rate hike factor in Mississippi. I generally knock 1/3 off of their estimates to err on the side of caution (11.4%), but given Ambetter specifically stating that they didn't add any increase to account for #ShortAssPlans (why?? interesting!), I'm shaving off a bit more and assuming a flat 10% impact.
This means that unsubsidized Mississippi enrollees would likely have saved a good $800 apiece next year without Trump/GOP efforts to undermine the ACA this year.
Kansas is pretty frustrating. There's only three carriers offering ACA individual market policies, but two of the three have heavily redacted actuarial memos, so I don't know what their market share is...and the same two were new (or "semi-new") to the exchange this year so I can't even use last year's effectuated enrollment as a guideline. In light of that, I had to split the estimate right down the middle to get an estimated overall market share.
In addition, Medica is the only one of the three to specifally mention mandate repeal and/or #ShortAssPlans as a contributing factor; that's also redacted in the filings for the other two. Therefore, instead of assuming 2/3 of the Urban Institute's sabotage projection, I'm being extra-cautious and assuming just half (9.6% instead of 19.2%). This gives a rough statewide average increase of around 6.1%, which would likely be closer to a 3.5% premium reduction without mandate repeal and short-term plan expansion.