Washington State

Look what I dug up on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website!

That's right...it's time for another state-level Datapalooza!® The first two slides come from the Feb. 2nd board meeting Open Enrollment Report; the rest come from the "Open Enrollment For 2018 Plan Year Performance Dashboard" report, which is a bit different; it actually runs through January 26th instead of January 14th for whatever reason. so some of the numbers are slightly different.

Last Thursday Hannah Recht alerted me to an internal slideshow presentation at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange which included rough final Open Enrollment numbers for Washington State, totally around 242,800 people.

Today the WA exchange has issued a formal press release with the official numbers, which are...exactly 50 enrollees higher than that:

Washington Healthplanfinder Closes Open Enrollment with Record 242,000 Sign-Ups
Health plan selections spike eight percent over last year, dental plan selections jump 12 percent

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Health Benefit Exchange announced today that more than 242,000 customers signed up for Qualified Health Plans (QHP) through Washington Healthplanfinder by the close of open enrollment on Jan. 15 – an eight percent increase over the previous year.

A few days ago I reported that the Washington Health Benefit Exchange had enrolled 234,000 people in private policies for 2018 when they had just a couple of days left to go.

Today Hannah Recht provided a link to this WA state navigator meeting in which rough final numbers were included as part of the slideshow presentation, along with a bunch of other data points which should be of interest to other healthcare/navigator wonks. 242,800 is a rough number but assuming it doesn't get changed by much, it means the Apple State enrolled 7.6% more people in QHPs this year than last, with nearly 1/3 of them being new to the WA exchange.

Washington State was already beating their 2017 numbers anyway, so this update just pads their lead.

Ten days ago the Washington Health Benefit Exchange reported having enrolled around 231,500 people in 2018 policies after having purged a few thousand who were auto-renewed but then cancelled. This still left them over 6,000 enrollees ahead of last year's final total of 225,600.

Today, with one day left for people to sign up before the January 15th deadline, the Seattle Times reports that WA's tally is up to 234,000:

Washington state is on pace to increase the number of people with health insurance despite efforts by the Republican Congress and the Trump administration to gut the laws known as Obamacare that expanded insurance coverage across the nation.

Whenever I write or talk about the 3-Legged Stool of the ACA and the actual flaws in the law (as opposed to the ones deliberately created by the GOP), I usually focus on two "gaps" in the legs: The APTC subsidies getting cut off at 400% FPL and being too stingy below that level, and the individual mandate not being large enough (and not being properly enforced). As it happens, part of the first problem has already been unintentionally "solved" thanks to Trump's ham-handed CSR reimbursement cut-off (which ended up increasing APTC tax credits for those below the 400% cut-off), while the second problem has just been made a whole lot worse thanks ot the GOP repealing the mandate altogether.

However, in focusing on the legs of the stool, I often forget to mention another important issue: The width of the seat itself. That is, how wide the network of doctors and hospitals which accept the policy is. The Affordable Care Act does give some guidelines/regulations about how wide ACA-compliant policy networks have to be, like so:

Presented without comment because I don't really have much to add aside from yes, this is a good idea which should happen for EVERY state, really:

Kreidler proposes bill to stabilize individual market, reduce premium costs
Contact Public Affairs: 360-725-7055

January 8, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is proposing legislation to help provide stability and confidence that over 300,000 people are able to maintain coverage in Washington’s individual health insurance market.

Kreidler’s proposed reinsurance program would encourage more health plan options in the 2019 individual market and lower premium increases by up to 10 percent.

The Washington HealthPlan Finder issued a press release today urging people to #GetCovered before their upcoming January 15th Open Enrollment deadline. At first glance it looks like a pretty disappointing update ("over 231,00 QHPs"), since their previous update as of 12/15 was already 230,591, suggesting only a few hundred more people enrolled between December 16th - January 2nd...

Washington Healthplanfinder Reminds Residents It’s Not Too Late to Get Covered
Customers have until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 15 to sign up for 2018 health and dental plans

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is reminding residents there is still time to sign up for 2018 health and dental coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder. Customers have 12 more days to make their plan selections before the open enrollment period closes at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 15.

With less than two weeks remaining until the deadline, more than 231,000 Washingtonians have already used Washington Healthplanfinder to secure their coverage for 2018. 

BUSY DAY: I was expecting the big Week 7 HC.gov Snapshot Report to come out this morning, but it hasn't been released yet. Instead, I have major updates from the three largest state-based exchanges: New York, California and now Washington State...and of the three, WA is the most impressive:

Washington Healthplanfinder Sign-Ups Jump Past 230,000, Shatter Last Year’s Record Pace

Final deadline for remaining customers to select 2018 health and dental coverage is Jan. 15

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that more than 230,000 customers selected health plans through Washington Healthplanfinder by the Dec. 15 deadline for coverage that begins on Jan. 1. Customers who have not yet applied for coverage still have until Jan. 15 to sign up for health and dental plans that begin on Feb. 1.

3:20pm: IMPORTANT UPDATE!!

According to Steve Valandra, spokesperson for the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the department has already come to a "done deal" agreement with Centene/Ambetter, the terms of which include:

  • The cease & desist order will be removed immediately, allowing Centene/Ambetter to continue selling plans on the individual market in Washington (including the ACA exchange)
  • Centene/Ambetter will immediately ameliorate all patient billing errors and other issues
  • Centene/Ambetter will be hit with a $1.5 million fine, but $1 million of this will be suspended if there are no further violations for at least 2 years
  • Centene/Ambetter must hire an external auditor, approved by the state insurance dept., to go over their books/etc.
  • The official notice of this agreement will be posted publicly on the Insurance Commissioner's website within 5 days.

Hat tip to Angela Marx for the tip!

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington HealthBenefit Exchange reported a 43% increase in new enrollees on their ACA exchange, with 17,800K new additions vs. 12,500 at the same point last year.

Today they issued another update, and the new enrollee numbers are even more impressive:

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today is alerting customers who have not yet signed up for 2018 coverage that 11:59 p.m. this Friday, Dec. 15 is the deadline to select health and dental plans through Washington Healthplanfinder that begin on Jan 1, 2018. After Dec. 15, individuals have until Jan. 15, 2018 to secure annual coverage that would start on Feb. 1, 2018.

Washingtonians seeking coverage for 2018 include 40,000 new customers who did not have coverage in the marketplace last year. The total number of new applicants represents a 47 percent increase over last year.

This just in from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange...

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that nearly 18,000 new customers have used Washington Healthplanfinder to select 2018 health coverage through the first four weeks of open enrollment. The number of new customers who have signed up since Nov. 1 represents a 43 percent increase over the same period last year.

In addition to the 4,500 new sign-ups received on average each week, Washington Healthplanfinder has experienced an 18 percent increase in visits to the website, with more than 423,000 visitors reviewing their coverage options on www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

Additional data revealing increased consumer interest during open enrollment:

UPDATE: To clarify, just like with Covered California's "6,000 on day one" notice, Washington State's 4,550 new enrollees in 8 days don't include renewals/re-enrollments of current enrollees. Last year WA had 10,265 QHP selections total in the first 5 days and 21,665 in the first 12, so assuming a similar number of renewals each year, their total 8-day tally this year is likely around 13,000 + 4,550 = 17,500)

Washington Healthplanfinder Traffic, New Enrollment Surges In First Week

State’s online health insurance marketplace saw a 24 percent rise in site visits, more than 50 percent increase in new enrollees

The Washington HealthPlan Finder is the 2nd state exchange to release their initial enrollment data from opening day:

  • We had a very good first day of Open Enrollment
  • Over 32,000 unique visitors and 886,000 page views
  • At peak we had 3,534 concurrent users when on 11/1 last year our peak was of 2,699 concurrent users
  • 2,108 QHP plans selected by customers who either did not have a 2018 enrollment or switched away from the plan they were auto-enrolled into
  • Over 800 new downloads of the WAHBE mobile app
  • No significant system issue was encountered

In addition, unlike the federal exchange and most state exchanges, instead of waiting until after the initial wave of erollments are out of the way, Washington auto-renews existing enrollees right up front, but then changes their policies as people log in and switch to a different policy (or cancels the renewals if people don't pay up or inform them that they're not renewing):

I'm still missing final 2018 rate data for 6 states, but in the meantime I'm also doing some cleanup of some of the states I thought I already had final data for. Today both my home state of Michigan as well as Washington State released their official, approved increase tables.

Michigan's average is nearly identical to what it was before...it only dropped from 26.9%...to 26.8%.

However, I do give the Michigan Dept. of Insurance & Financial Services huge credit for making it incredibly easy for me to plug their data in. Look at that...they list all carriers, whether they sell on or off exchange, the exact average rate increases, and even include the number of affected enrollees, which is usually the hardest number for me to track down. Thanks, MI DIFS!!

I've spent the past two weeks posting about almost nothing besides the Graham-Cassidy debacle, so haven't had a chance to keep on top of the approved 2018 rate changes as I usually do. Fortunately, Louise Norris of healthinsurance.org has stayed on the rate hike job, and reports the final numbers out of Washington State:

2018 rates: 24% approved rate increase, due in large part to federal uncertainty — and higher backup rates will be implemented if CSR funding is cut mid-year

Insurers in Washington had to file rates and plans for 2018 by June 7, 2017. On June 8, Kreidler’s office published a summary of what had been filed (rate filings are available here, and that page will show final rate changes for the individual market once they’re approved), and publicized the filing details on June 19. The average proposed rate increase in Washington, before any subsidies are applied, was 22.3 percent.

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