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2018 Rate Hikes

The 2018 Rate Hike Project:

Back in 2015, I started tracking the individual market premium rate changes (mostly increases, occasionally a decrease) being requested by the various health insurance carriers on a state-by-state basis. At the time, I didn't bother separating out the initial requested rate hikes from the final, approved changes, so my final estimates ended up being a mixture of each. .Even so, I ended up being pretty damned accurate: I estimated that nationally, the overall average, unsubsidized, individual market policy rate increases would be roughly 12-13%, assuming 100% of current enrollees were to re-enroll in the exact same policy. I noted, however, that due to the likelihood of many people switching to different policies (either via the same carrier or a different one), the odds were that the effective average rate increases would turn out to be somewhat lower; likely "under 10% overall".

As it turned out, I called it pretty closely: The overall average approved rate hikes on the indy market (again, for unsubsidized enrollees) ended up being around 11.6-11.7% nationally...slightly below my estimates. Furthermore, the effective average rate hike once the dust settled turned out to be around 8% overall.

For 2016, I started the Rate Hike project earlier in the year, and made sure to add an extra column so I could compare the initial requested rate increases to the final, approved rate hikes...although it really didn't make much difference. While there were a lot of changes over the course of the summer/fall in 2015, in 2016, the approved rate changes ended up being pretty close to those requested in most instances. In the end, I estimated roughly a 25% overall national rate increase for unsubsidized enrollees. I also started tracking the small business market averages as well, although I only did this for a handful of states.

Once again, I nailed it pretty closely: The official ASPE report from the HHS Dept. gave the average as roughly 25%, but that only included the 38 states run via HealthCare.Gov; when you added the other 13 states, it dropped a bit to 22% nationally. However, that only included benchmark plans (the 2nd-lowest-priced Silver plans in each rating area). When you also roll in all the other policies available on the ACA-compliant indy market (Bronze, Gold, Platinum, Catastrophic and other Silver plans), it did indeed end up averaging closer to 25% after all.

This has become something of an annual off-season tradition for me; for good or for bad, I seem to spend 3 months of the year tracking exchange enrollments and the other 9 months of the year tracking how much unsubsidized rates for those same policies are going up. I'm once again tracking every state as comprehensively and accurately as I can as each one releases their initial, revised and final/approved rate changes. I'm also going to attempt to do this for the small business market in every state as well if I can, although those will be posted elsewhere if I'm sure I can lock them in for all (or nearly all) states.

Of course, thanks to the massive Trump/GOP Uncertainty Factor, there's a lot of unknowns at play for next year...and, as I've been predicting for months now, that uncertainty is already clearly leading to significantly higher rate hike requests than would otherwise be asked for. As of this writing I've only documented 4 states (Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Vermont), and already at least 4 insurance carriers (CareFirst, Evergreen Health, New Mexico Health Connections and BCBS of Tennessee) have gone on the record as pinning a significant chunk of their requested increases on uncertainty regarding Trump's threat to cut off CSR payments, whether or not HHS Sec. Price will bother enforcing the individual mandate penalty, whether or not the GOP at large will actually repeal the ACA and so on.

UPDATE 5/25/17: Several carrier CEOs have gone on the record to note that the Trump/GOP Uncertainty Factor is a "significant" or "primary" part of their requested rate hikes this year...but today BCBS of North Carolina went well beyond that, to explicitly say, point blank, that the CSR reimbursement issue is directly responsible for over 60% of their 22.9% requested increase. 

I've been assuming a ballpark average of 40% being due to general Trump/GOP/CSR uncertainty as a general rule of thumb. I'm sure it ranges widely from carrier to carrier, and I don't expect many other carriers to be quite so candid and specific about this issue, but BCBSNC has over half a million enrollees on the individual market (on + off exchange). That's 2.8% of the entire indy market all by themselves. Food for thought.

UPDATE 6/02/17: OK, between North Carolina (60% due specifically to sabotage) and Pennsylvania (75% due specifically to sabotage), I'm bumping my ballpark average assumption up to a flat 50% due to the "Trump Uncertainty Tax" in states which don't otherwise specify the impact. I've also added new columns to the tables below which compare the total rate hike requests vs. what they likely would be without the Trump Tax included.

UPDATE 6/7/17: New York has released their rate requests with the opposite situation: They were instructed to assume CSR payments/etc will continue,  which means they're only providing the "NO Trump Tax" scenario. In these cases I'm going to rely on the Kaiser Family Foundation, which estimated that rates would have to be increased an average of 9-27% depending on the state, averaging around 19% overall, 21% for non-Medicaid expansion states and 15% for Medicaid expansion states.

FURTHER UPDATE: Just realized that due to the BHP programs in NY/MN, those states only have 1/3 as many CSR enrollees anyway, so the Trump Tax is likely more like 5 points instead of 15 points in each. Tables revised below.

In any event, as always, it's important to remember several key caveats when reading the tables below:

  • These are for the individual health insurance market ONLY. Thes do not have anything to do with employer-sponsored policies (large or small), Medicare, Medicaid, the VA/TriCare, short term policies or "grandfathered/transitional" policies. These only refer to the roughly 18 million people enrolled in ACA-compiant individual market policies, either on or off the exchanges​.
  • The requested rate changes are oftentimes reduced (and, unfortunately, occasionally increased) by state insurance regulators. Sometimes they're approved exactly as is. Sometimes the carrier submits a revised request later in the summer/fall which is in turn approved or changed again. The green column at the end (APPROVED) likely won't be filled in for any states until sometime in October.
  • These are the full price, unsubsidized rate changes. For roughly 9 million exchange enrollees who are receiving APTC assistance, assuming their income level, etc. doesn't change much and they remain on the same policy, they likely won't see their rates go up much at all, since the tax credits will likely increase to match in most cases. The rate changes below apply mainly to the other 9 million people on the indy market who aren't receiving APTC assistance.
  • These average increases assume 100% of current enrollees renew their existing policy in 2018. This, obviously is not going to be the case for millions of people no matter what happens. Some carriers are dropping out of the market altogether. Some are dropping certain plans. Some are changing their policy offerings. Some are newly entering the individual market. In addition, the individual market has always had a lot of churn anyway, with people jumping in and out from year to year. Since there's no real way of accounting for all of that, I do the best I can with what I have at my disposal.

With all that in mind, here's where things stand as of 5/14/17: With 4 states plugged in (CT, MD, VT & VA) representing less than 6% of the total population, carriers are requesting a pretty unpleasant 32.5% average rate hike.

This will likely change dramatically as each new state is added to the spreadsheets. Once states representing over half of the population have been entered, it will take increasingly dramatic variances for each new state to move the needle up or down. Updates will be added at this link.

And with that, we're off...

UPDATE 5/16/17: OREGON ADDED. There are now 5 states representing around 7.1% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 29.84%.

UPDATE 5/19/17: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ADDED. There are now 6 states (DC is treated as a state here) representing 7.3% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 29.75%.

UPDATE 5/25/17: NORTH CAROLINA ADDED. There are now 7 states representing 11.2% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 27.5%. 

UPDATE 6/2/17: PENNSYLVANIA ADDED. There are now 8 states representing 14.8% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 29.7% with the Trump Tax or 11.0% without it.

UPDATE 6/7/17: NEW YORK ADDED. There are now 9 states representing 18.3% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 30.4% with the Trump Tax or 11.9% without it.

UPDATE 6/9/17: MAINE ADDED and CONNECTICUT CORRECTED. There are now 10 STATES representing 18.8% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 13.1% WITHOUT the Trump Tax or 34.2% WITH it.

UPDATE 6/14/17: DELAWARE and MICHIGAN ADDED. There are now 12 STATES representing 21.8% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 13.7% WITHOUT the Trump CSR Tax or 33.1% WITH it.

UPDATE 6/19/17: WASHINGTON STATE ADDED. There are now 13 STATES representing 23.8% of the total population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of 13.3% WITHOUT the Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax or 32.2% WITH it.

UPDATE 6/20/17: IOWA ADDED. There are now 14 STATES representing 24.6% of the population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of up to 13.6% WITHOUT the Trump/GOP Sabotage or 32.6% WITH the Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax included.

ALSO NOTE: Going forward, I'm changing the "WITHOUT TrumpTax" label to "w/PARTIAL TrumpTax" because some carriers don't break out their "HHS mandate enforcement uncertainty" factor even if they break out the "assume no CSR reimbursements" factor. This means that the "Without" average is actually somewhat lower than shown overall, but I have no way of estimating how much lower, though my guess is it'd be perhaps 2 points or so overall.

UPDATE 7/2/17: INDIANA and TENNESSEE ADDED. There are now 16 STATES representing 28.3% of the population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of up to 13.3% with a PARTIAL Trump/GOP sabotage effect or 31.8% WITH the Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax included.

UPATE 7/6/17: GEORGIA ADDED: There are now 17 STATES representing 31.9% of the population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of up to 15.1% with a PARTIAL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax or 34.2% with the FULL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax included.

UPDATE 7/7/17: RHODE ISLAND ADDED: There are now 18 STATES representing 32.2% of the population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of up to 15.1% with a PARTIAL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax or 34.1% with the FULL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax included:

UPDATE 7/12/17: MONTANA and NEW MEXICO ADDED: There are now 20 STATES representing 33% of the population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of up to 15.1% with a PARTIAL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax, or 34.2% with the FULL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax included:

UPDATE 7/14/17: MICHIGAN UPDATED, COLORADO ADDED: There are now 21 STATES representing 34.7% of the population included, with a weighted average requested rate hike of up to 15.0% with a PARTIAL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax, or 33.7% with the FULL Trump/GOP Sabotage Tax included:

UPDATE 8/1/17: After a long dry spell stretching over the insane Senate "repeal/replace" brouhaha, the rate filings are back with a vengence: I've added IDAHO (complete), ARIZONA (Blue Cross only) MINNESOTA (rough estimates) and the Big One: CALIFORNIA. I've now tracked 25 STATES representing 51% of the population, with weighted average requested rate hikes of up to 13.4% with NO or PARTIAL Trump/GOP sabotage tax included, or 28.2% with the FULL sabotage tax included:

UPDATE 8/1/17: Well, the floodgates have really opened up today (especially with RateReview.HealthCare.Gov being loaded up for 2018). I've also added ALABAMA, ALASKA and WYOMING. Across 28 states representing I've now tracked 28 STATES representing 53% of the population, with weighted average requested rate hikes of up to 13.2% with NO or PARTIAL Trump/GOP sabotage included, or around 28.1% with the FULL sabotage tax:

UPDATE 8/2/17: The flood continues...I've updated 2 states (Minnesota and North Carolina), while also adding two new ones (ARKANSAS and KENTUCKY). I've now tracked the rate requests for 30 STATES representing 55% of the population. The weighted average rate hike request now stands at 12.8% with NO/PARTIAL Trump/GOP sabotage or 27.5% with FULL Trump/GOP sabotage.

UPDATE 8/3/17: Added WEST VIRGINIA and another Big One: TEXAS. I've now compiled rate request data for 32 STATES representing 65% of the population, As I expected, just as California pulled the national average down several points, Texas has bumped it back up again: The weighted average rate hike request now stands at 13.9% with NO or PARTIAL Trump/GOP sabotage, or around 28.2% with FULL sabotage:

UPDATE 8/3/17: Two updates in one day! I've added HAWAII and ILLINOIS. I've now compiled rate request data for 34 STATES representing 68.5% of the population. The weighted average now stands at 13.8% with NO or PARTIAL sabotage or around 27.9% with FULL sabotage:

UPDATE 8/7/17: MORE states added: LOUISIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, MISSISSIPPI, NEBRASKA, NEW HAMPSHIRE and SOUTH DAKOTA. I've now compiled rate request data for 40 STATES representing nearly 75% of the population. The weighted average still stands at 13.8% with No/Partial sabotage, but the FULL sabotage average has inched up to 28.0%.

UPDATE 8/10/17: Coming into the home stretch. I've added seven more states: FLORIDA, NEW JERSEY, NORTH DAKOTA, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH CAROLINA and WISCONSIN. I've now completed rate request data for 46 states (+DC) representing over 95% of the total population. The weighted average now stands at 14.4% assuming No/Partial Sabotage, or 29.0% assuming FULL Sabotage.

I hope to plug in the final 4 states (Kansas, Missouri, Nevada and Utah) ASAP, but they're unlikely to move the needle by much given that they collectively only make up 5% of the total population.

UPDATE 8/14/17: I've started going back and updating/correcting/revising the earlier states, where some carriers have either dropped out, expanded coverage or resubmitted revised filings. So far I've updated Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont and Oregon. This has bumped the PARTIAL Sabotage average up by nearly 1 full point, and the FULL Sabotage average up by about 0.5 points:

UPDATE 8/20/17: More updates/corrections, to Maine and the District of Columbia. The averages now stand at 15.4% assuming No/Partial Sabotage or 29.5% assuming FULL Sabotage.

Louisiana has 3 individual market carriers for 2018 (technically there's 4, but "Freedom Life" is basically just a shell company with a placeholder filing). Officially, they're requesting average rate increases averaging around 21.4%...but all three carriers state point-blank in their filing letters that a huge chunk of their request is due specifically to the CSR reimbursement and mandate enforcement issues. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the CSR issue alone adds around 20 points to Silver plans, and 71% of Louisiana exchange enrollees chose Silver, so that translatest into roughly 14.2 points across the whole market. This results in just a 7.2% average rate hike if CSR payments are made vs. 21.4% if they aren't:

South Dakota is another fairly straightforward state: Two carriers, around 31,000 total ACA-compliant enrollees on & off exchange. Neither filing indicates whether they're assuming CSR payments will be made or not, so I'm assuming they're based on them being paid.

Another major state: Illinois. I've decided to scrap the "Low/High Increase" columns since they just confused people and made the table too wide, but replaced them with a new column showing the CSR factor estimate according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Note that the percent listed will be smaller than Kaiser's estimate for each state, because their numbers only apply to silver plans, not all metal levels.

For instance in Illinois, Kaiser estimates that carriers would have to raise rates by 14% on Silver plans to cover their CSR losses. However, only 64% of Illinois exchange enrollees have silver plans to begin with, so I'm only plugging in about 9%. There are 5 carriers operating on the Illinois individual market (well, really 4, since "Freedom Life" doesn't count). I have the hard enrollment numbers for 4 of the 5; for Health Alliance Medical Plans I used 30,000 based on their 2016 number. Overall, Illinois is looking at around 11.3% w/partial sabotage, 20.3% with full sabotage:

Whew! OK, Texas was a bear for obvious reasons...13 different carriers (well, 12 really...Centene is new to their market). Several more are dropping out (Aetna, Allegian, Cigna, Humana, Memorial Hermann and Prominence), but suposedly theyonly have around 64,000 enrollees in TX combined. Texas's total individual market is actually closer to 1.6 million, so I'm obvoiusly missing a big chunk of enrollees below (and before my regular commenters say it: Yes, I'm sure the off-exchange TX indy market has shrunk this year, but I find it hard to believe it's shrunk by over 60% already).

Anyway, I've managed to plug in one hard request percent for each carrier--the FULL Trump Tax for 3 of them, the NO/PARTIAL Trump Tax for most. In Vista's case, they're off-exchange only so the CSR issue isn't a factor anyway. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the enrollment number for Community Health Choice, so I don't know what their share of the market is, which could make a big difference if they have high enrollment. I've plugged in a flat 100,000 enrollees for the moment, but will change that if I'm able to track the actual number down.

Another fairly straightfoward state: Three carriers, two of which (CareFirst and Health Plan of Upper Ohio Valley) appear to be assuming CSR payments will be paid; the third, Highmark BCBS (which holds the vast bulk of the individual market) openly states that they assume they won't be made and that the mandate won't be enforced to boot. I'm once again assuming roughly 2/3 of Kaiser Family Foundation's "Silver CSR hike", which in this case would be about 10%, giving the following: 17.8% if CSR payments are made, 27.8% if they are:

Louise Norris gave me a heads up that the Kentucky Insurance Dept. has posted their 2018 rate hike filings as well. The individual market is pretty straightforward...and pretty grim: Both individual market carriers, CareSource and Anthem, are asking for pretty steep rate hikes even if CSR payments are locked in next year, averaging around 30.8%, while assuming another 13.5 points on top of that (71% of Kaiser's 19% Silver average) would bring the average up to around 44.3%. Not much else to say about this one for the moment.

The states filings are piling up quickly...Arkansas is pretty straightforward. Interestingly, four of the five carriers seem to be assuming that CSR payments will be made, and have submitted their rate filings accordingly; the fifth (and largest), USAble Mutual (aka Blue Cross Blue Shield of AR) is the only one to break it out specifically. In order to estimate the CSR factor for the other 4 carriers, I'm assuming 2/3 of Kaiser's 15% Silver plan bump estimate, or around 10 percentage points. That brings things in at around 10% even without CSR sabotage or nearly 18% with the CSR factor.

One other important thing to keep in mind regarding Arkansas: Their total individual market, including grandfathered and transitional plans, is something like 430,000 but they only have around 70,000 officially enrolled in ACA exchange policies. The main reason for this is that they have another 320,000 people enrolled in exchange policies via their "Private Medicaid Option"...which is Arkansas' version of ACA Medicaid expansion. For some reason, those folks aren't counted as ACA exchange enrollees even though it's my understanding that the only distinction between them and the 70K official enrollees is where the payments/subsidies come from.

In late May, I noted that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, which holds a near monopoly on the individual market in NC with around 95% of total enrollment, had submitted an initial rate hike request for 2018 averageing 22.9% overall. What was remarkable at the time is that while most carriers were pussyfooting around using euphamisms about the reasons for their excessive increase requests, BCBSNC was among the first to come right out and state point-blank that it's the Trump Administration's deliberate sabotage of the market--primarily via the threats to cut off CSR payments and to not enforce the individual mandate--that are responsible for over 60% of the increase. This is from their blog, not mine:

Alabama, Alaska and Wyoming only have a single insurance carrier participating in each of their individual markets. While this is a bad thing from a competitiveness POV, it cetainly makes things easier for me from a tracking-average-rate-hikes POV.

ALSO IMPORTANT: The HHS Dept. is also starting to upload the rate filings to the official RateReview.Healthcare.Gov database, which should make things easier for me going forward (assuming that the data is uploaded properly and isn't messed with, which is a distinct possibility when it comes to the Trump Administration)

Officially, Alabama has the infamous "Freedom Life" phantom plan which is asking for a whopping 71.6% rate hike...to allegedly cover exactly one (1) person statewide. Un-huh.

Aside from that, however, it's Blue Cross Blue Shield across all three states...and they're asking for the following:

This isn't a full analysis, since I only have 2018 rate hike data for one of Arizona's carriers so far...on the other hand, AZ only has a couple of carriers on the individual market these days anyway. From AZCentral:

The Affordable Care Act insurer in 13 of Arizona's 15 counties plans to raise average rates across all plans a moderate 7.2 percent next year.

But Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona officials said the rate increases would be flat if President Donald Trump's administration did not plan to eliminate a key Affordable Care Act funding source.

7.2% isn't bad at all...of course, that comes after last years massive 57% average rate hike. Still, 0% would obviously be much better than 7%...

Trump suggested in a weekend tweet that " ... bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of Congress will end very soon" unless Congress acts quickly on a new health bill.

Here it is...the Big Kahuna! Covered California just issued a detailed press release and accompanying PDF brochure breaking out their proposed 2018 market participation and rate changes:

Covered California Releases 2018 Rates: Continued Stability and Competition in the Face of National Uncertainty

Covered California remains stable, with an average weighted rate change of 12.5 percent. The change is lower than last year and includes a one-time increase of 2.8 percent due to the end of the health insurance tax “holiday.”

The competitive market allows consumers to limit the rate change to 3.3 percent if they switch to the lowest-cost plan in the same metal tier.

For 2017, unsubsidized enrollees on the Minnesota individual market faced massive rate hikes averaging 57%. It was so bad that the only way they could convince some carriers to participate in the market was to allow most of them to put a cap on how many people they'd enroll (with the balance being shunted over to Blue Plus, the HMO division of BCBSMN). This resulted in a massive initial surge of enrollment, as it was on a first-come, first-serve basis...but also left off-exchange and unsubsidized exchange enrollees high and dry.

In response, the state scrambled to pull together a $300 million package to help supplement premiums for those folks...knocking a flat 25% off of their premiums for 2017. This helped ease the problem in the short term, but the larger issue still loomed going forward.

It feels almost silly for me to spend so much time crunching the average 2018 rate hike numbers at this point. Between the (supposedly failed?) GOP repeal effort and Donald Trump's ongoing sabotage efforts--including what could be him officially pulling the plug on CSR reimbursements as early as sometime today--it's probably a bit of a futile effort. Besides, a dozen other wonks/analyses have already confirmed what the Kaiser Family Foundation projected months ago and which I've been proving on a state-by-state basis for months now: The CSR threat is causing average rate hikes of around 20 points on average, and the threats to individual mandate enforcement are tacking on another 4-5 points on top of that, beyond the ~10 points which rates would normally be increasing on average.

However, I've plugged in 21 states, so I might as well finish the job. With that in mind, the state of Idaho has done most of the dirty work for me:


Thanks to Emily Gee and the Center for American Progress for this:

This isn't a full/official New Jersey rate hike update, as it only refers to one carrier, and rounds things off a bit, but in the video above, if you watch from around 37:30 to 41:00, you'll hear New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone talk about the negative impact that the CSR reimbursement threat/uncertainty/sabotage effect is having on Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield...and since Horizon BCBS happens to hold something like 70% of the New Jersey individual market share (which is confirmed by Pallone in the video), the statewide weighted average rate hike will end up being largely determined by theirs.

The most relevant part:

"So Horizon, which is something like 70% of our market in New Jersey, filed like a 24% increase. And I asked the president (of Horizon) "why are you filing with a 24% increase?" I can't imagine that health insurance costs have gone up that much. And he said "Oh, they haven't, Congressman." I said, "well, what is this?"

The Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies has made it pretty simple for me:

Division of Insurance releases preliminary 2018 health insurance information
Final approval expected in late September / early October

DENVER (July 14, 2017) – The Colorado Division of Insurance, part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), today released the preliminary information for proposed health plans and premiums for 2018 for individuals and small groups. From this point until August 4, Colorado consumers can comment on these plans.

All counties in Colorado
As the Division of Insurance noted in its June 21 news release, based on the plans filed, there is at least one insurance carrier planning to offer individual, on-exchange plans in every Colorado county. However, the insurance companies have indicated to the  Division that they may be forced to reevaluate their participation in the marketplace if the lack of clarity at the federal level continues.