UPDATE: Rhode Island closes w/34.6K QHPs; up 4.8% year over year; nearly breaks record

Rhode Island may be a tiny state, but they just became the 11th state to officially surpass their 2018 Open Enrollment Period total, and the 4th state-based exchange to officially do so...when they still had one day left to go:

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Islanders have just a few hours left to obtain health insurance through the state.

The deadline to sign up for and renew coverage for 2019 is Monday, Dec. 31.

The state's health insurance marketplace, HealthSource RI, plans to keep its call and walk-in center open until 7 p.m. Monday.

The center is located at 401 Wampanoag Trail in East Providence and the hotline is 1-855-840-4774.

Rhode Islanders have until midnight Monday to sign up for coverage online through HealthSource RI's website.

"Enrollment is up from last year, which we're very excited about, so that to us is a sign that the ACA is working in Rhode Island, and everybody is understanding the value of having health coverage," HealthSource RI COO Meg Ivatts said.

HealthSource RI currently has 34,505 enrollees for 2019, according to Ivatts, compared to 32,619 at the same time last year.

It's important to note that this article was published on December 31st, which means the enrollments from the very last day (which usually spike) aren't included. That should add several hundred more to the final total, which means it's possible that Rhode Island won't just outperform last year's 33,021 tally, but it could break the record set in 2016 of 34,670 QHP selections.

UPDATE 1/05/19: Well, they didn't quite break their record, but they came within a whisker of doing so:

PROVIDENCE — HealthSource RI’s open enrollment ended Dec. 31 with 34,600 signed up for health care insurance through the state’s health insurance exchange, about 6 percent higher than last year.

I'm not quite sure how they get 6% higher, however...the official QHP selection total for the 2018 Open Enrollment Period was 33,021, which puts the 2019 total up 4.8% year over year. There's usually some last-minute clerical correction/data cleanup between the state exchanges and CMS's official report, however, which likely accounts for the discrepancy.

...The figures on the number of enrollees who have paid for their insurance is also up, about seven percent higher than last year. Those numbers aren’t all in yet, Sherman said.

...The number of enrollees in Rhode Island has steadily risen the last three years. In 2016, the total number of enrollees was about 29,000. In 2017, there were 33,021.

This last sentence is worded confusingly: 29,456 people enrolled in 2016 for 2017; 33,021 people enrolled in 2017 for 2018...which means I'm really confused about where the 6% figure comes from, since that 33,021 figure is right there in the article. Huh.

Nationwide, the number of people who enrolled during open enrollment dropped from 8.7 million in 2017 to 8.4 million in 2018, a drop of 3.4 percent, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

(sigh) That's not correct either. Enrollments dropped from 8.74 million to 8.41 million on the federal exchange, which only includes 39 states, not nationally. There are 12 states missing from that figure...including, of course, Rhode Island itself. GAHHHHH!!!

Sherman noted that states like Rhode Island, which opted for state-based insurance exchanges allowing them greater flexibility with enrollment schedules, marketing and advertising, avoided drops in enrollment.

Translation: CMS sabotaged the federal exchange enrollment by slashing the marketing budget by 90%, the outreach/navigator budget by over 70% over two years and so forth, but the state exchanges didn't.

“The states that have bucked the trend have state-based marketplaces,” Sherman said.

...“States that are not at the whim of the Trump Administration are able to protect the affordability of individual coverage,” Sherman said.

However, he cautioned, the full effect of the loss of the individual mandate won’t be known or felt until the next open enrollment period, when the financial penalty for not buying insurance, the individual mandate, is effectively canceled out.

Hmmm...well, yes and no. The financial penalty is already cancelled out for 2019. It's supposed to be enforced by the IRS for 2018 when people file their 2018 taxes this spring, but I have no idea how much effort the IRS will put into doing so (assuming they're operating at all, that is, given the Trump Shutdown...)

...That will include continuing meetings of the Market Stability Workgroup, where members will consider codifying ACA consumer protections (such as essential health benefits and coverage of children up to age 26) into state law, and the Fort Worth ruling.

Here's what this is referring to...last summer Rhode Island started working on policies to lock in ACA protections but also to potentially establish a state reinsurance program and possibly even reinstate the individual mandate at the state level, as New Jersey and DC have done.