So, like everyone else, yesterday I was poring over the BCRAP text, and one of the first things which caught my eye was the individual market tax credit structure table, to see how it compares with the ACA's formula. Here's how it stands under the ACA...again, these percentages are based on the benchmark Silver policy...
...and here's the BCRAP table, based on the benchmark Bronze policy:
After reviewing it for a few minutes late yesterday morning, I posted a tweet noting that under the ACA, a 60-year old earning about 300% of the Federal Poverty Line...roughly $37,000/year...only has to pay up to around $3,600/year in premiums for a Silver plan (9.69% of their income)...but under BCRAP, that same 60-year old would have to pay up to $6,000/year for a Bronze plan (16.2% of their income).
The tweet went viral...I think it was retweeted like 1,000 times or so over the next few hours.
a) The Parliamentarian is most likely going to be stripping out significant non-germane to the budget items
b) $1 billion in savings must come from each of two committees (HELP and Finance)
c) Anything the Senate passes must meet or beat the $119 billion in budget window deficit reduction that the House AHCA was scored at.
However, from a political POV, the bigger question is how many people the CBO projects will lose coverage by 2026 if BCRAP becomes law.
OK, this metaphor will take a bit, but bear with me.
On March 16, 1981, CBS aired the 17th episode of Season 9 of M*A*S*H. For those of you too young to remember, M*A*S*H, set at a U.S. Army medical camp in Korea during the Korean War, was one fo the most successful TV shows in history, running 11 seasons. I believe the series finale remains the most highly-viewed broadcasts in history. While M*A*S*H started out primarily as a sitcom, it evolved over the years into more of a drama with comedic moments.
Anyway, in S9 Ep17, "Bless You, Hawkeye", the main character, Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce (played by Alan Alda) finds himself stricken with a sudden, unexplained and violent allergic reaction to something. He spends much of the episode trying standard medical solutions, but his fits of sneezing and coughing become so bad that eventually a recurring character, psychiatrist Dr. Sydney Freedman, is brought in to see if there might be a psychological cause.
Freedman asks Hawkeye about his childhood, and Hawkeye, among other things, mentions his cousin Billy.
Back in 2011, when Paul Ryan and House Republicans first attempted to privatize Medicare, a progressive PAC ran the ad above. In it, "America the Beautiful" plays as we see a young, Paul Ryan-ish looking young man pushing an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman down a nature path...and eventually pushing her right off of a cliff. Needless to say, it caused quite a bit of controversy at the time.
Earlier today, as the GOP Senate's BCRAP bill was released, this happened:
I spent almost all of Part One discussing the butchering that the GOP Senate's BCRAP bill does to the individual market, because that's the primary focus of my work here at ACA Signups, but the truth is by far the worst fallout will be on the Medicaid side of things...and most of the damage doesn't even have a damned thing to do with the ACA itself, since it relates to pre-ACA Medicaid.
I'll get to the Medicaid side in depth in Part Three. However, there are still a few more things I need to discuss regarding the individual market: The sub-100% FPL population and how it relates to Medicaid expansion.
There's a lot to absorb here, but this is the bottom line:
MEDICAID: It's MORE draconian and cruel to Medicaid enrollees than the House version...but delays the worst of it by a few more years.
Seriously, that's it in a nutshell. It phases out the ACA's Medicaid expansion more gradually...but as the years pass, would eventually squeeze even more people off their coverage...mainly via non-ACA Medicaid, which means that this bill really has little to do with "repealing Obamacare" and is mainly about giving massive tax cuts to the ultra-rich at the expense of the poor and low-income workers.
County by County Analysis of Current Projected Insurer Participation in Health Insurance Exchanges
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is releasing a county-level map of 2018 projected Health Insurance Exchanges participation based on the known issuer participation public announcements through June 9, 2017. This map shows that insurance options on the Exchanges continue to disappear. Plan options are down from last year and, in some areas, Americans will have no coverage options on the Exchanges, based on the current data.
IMPORTANT: I cannot guarantee accurate federal data after 1/20/17.
...Most of the actual staff...the career employees at CMS/HHS, many of who've been there through more than one administration, will likely remain, and will do their jobs to the best of their ability, including trying to compile and publish data as accurately as possible.
HOWEVER, their bosses...the HHS Secretary and, I presume, the head of CMS...will be appointed by Donald J. Trump and confirmed by a 100% Republican-controlled Senate.
Given Trump's long, disturbing history of flat-out misstatements (aka "making sh*t up out of whole cloth"), and the type of sycophants he's likely to put into place, I can't guarantee with any certainty that the numbers spouted off by them are going to bear any connection with reality. Maybe they'll be accurate. Maybe they'll be off slightly. Maybe they'll be completely removed from any actual numbers. Who the hell knows?
An eternity ago (aka back in January/February), I attempted to compile and break out estimates of how many people would likely lose healthcare coverage in the event of a full, "clean" repeal of the Affordable Care Act (that is, a complete repeal of the ACA without any replacement healthcare policy whatsoever). I concluded that the total added up to roughly 24 million people nationally: Around 8.2 million highly-subsidized Individual Market enrollees, nearly 15 million Medicaid expansion enrollees and 750,000 Basic Health Plan enrollees (NY & MN only). I then attempted to break these out by both County and Congressional District. I went with a "clean" repeal because there wasn't any actual replacement plan available to compare with.
Earlier this year, in response to popular demand, I put together an extensive list of serious proposals to actually repair, improve and strengthen the ACA itself, as opposed to a) tearing it apart and replacing it with the GOP's Godawful pile of crap or b) tearing it apart and attempting to replace it with a total single payer system (which simply is not going to happen in the near future no matter what).
I came up with some of these ideas on my own (though I'm sure others have made similar suggestions), but most of them have been widely discussed by various heatlhcare wonks over the past few years. Some would require additional funding, but others are simply regulatory and wouldn't cost a single state or federal dime.
One of these seems to be catching on pretty quickly...number 12:
12. LEGALLY TIE MEDICARE ADVANTAGE/MANAGED MEDICAID CONTRACTS TO EXCHANGE PARTICIPATION.
OLYMPIA, Wash. - Eleven health insurers filed 71 health plans for Washington state’s 2018 individual and family health insurance market, with an average proposed rate increase of 22.3 percent. No health insurer filed plans in two counties – Klickitat and Grays Harbor.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has been reaching out to insurers since they filed their plans on June 7 to see if one or more will reconsider offering plans in the bare counties.
“I’m very concerned by the proposed changes we’re seeing,” Kreidler said. “I know these numbers will be extremely upsetting to people who buy their own health insurance. They’re upsetting to me. We’re going to spend the next several months reviewing every assumption insurers have made to make sure their proposed increases are justified.
Last week I analyzed the monthly enrollment effectuation numbers through all 4 years of ACA Open Enrollment (2013 - 2017), to help visualize how the enrollment numbers flow throughout the year (and to also show how misleading the Trump CMS "attrition" report from last week was).
Then, on Thursday, I wrote about a CMS powerpoint presentation from last year which provided a Holy Grail of sorts for me: Not only did it provide the monthly effectuation numbers for 2015, it broke them out by starting and ending month. That is, it divided the numbers into how many enrollees for that month had originally enrolled starting in January, in February and so forth. This is really, really important because having "an average" of 100,000 enrollees each month doesn't mean much if it's a different 100,000 people every month--that is, if a lot of people are signing up, having expensive treatments and then dropping out and then replaced by someone else, that hurts the risk pool, since the original batch aren't paying for the other months of the year when they don't require treatment.
As regular readers know, I've been a bit obsessive about tracking down and breaking out ACA Medicaid expansion enrollee numbers. This is more difficult than it sounds, because most Medicaid reports lump expansion enrollees in with the other ~58 million or so Medicaid enrollees; only a handful of states issue separate reports of the expansion-specific population on a regular basis.
Back in late November, I cobbled together the data as best as I could and came up with a total of roughly 11.3 million people nationally. However, that included a lot of 2-year old data and rough estimates.
A couple of weeks later, I stumbled upon a detailed analysis from an anti-ACA financial watchdog organization, the Foundation for Government Accountability, which provided hard numbers and confirmable data source links which included more recent numbers for many states. This brought the total up to over 12.3 million.
Health insurer Centene Corp. plans a broad expansion of its Obamacare offerings next year at a time when many of its big rivals are retreating from the program.
Centene said Tuesday that it would sell Affordable Care Act plans in three additional states: Kansas, Missouri and Nevada. The company also said it will expand in six states where it already offers Obamacare plans.
“Centene recognizes there is uncertainty of new health-care legislation, but we are well positioned to continue providing accessible, high quality and culturally-sensitive health-care services,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Neidorff said in the statement.
The company specializes in providing Medicaid coverage for low-income people, and has said the skills it’s honed in that business have helped make it successful in Obamacare markets.
Two market influences, in particular, are complicating 2018 rate setting: the uncertainty surrounding continued funding of cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments and the question of how the relaxation of the individual mandate will impact enrollment and risk pools.
Earlier this week I busted the Trump Administration's CMS division for releasing a misleading report which tried to understate the enrollment retention rate of ACA exchange enrollees. I'm not entirely sure why they did this, since even their "fudged" number wasn't really that much worse than previous years (they tried to make itt look like a March attrition rate of 15.4% vs. the 12.8% and 12.6% from 2015 and 2016 respectively), but for whatever reason, they did so. The short version is that they only included enrollees who paid for their January and February policies instead of also including those who paid their March premiums, as was done in previous years. As far as I can figure, the actual 3/31/17 effectuation rate closer to 11.8%, a slight improvement over 2015 and 2016, though I can't be certain about this without knowing how many of the ~500,000 people who signed up in the last 2 weeks of January paid and were effectuated for March coverage.
Calculating the average requested rate hike in Delaware is easier than most states. This year they officially have 5 carriers participating in the individual market (3 on exchange, 2 off)...but one of those is "Freedom Life" which is a phantom carrier; another is Golden Rule which only has about 120 enrollees; and two of the others are divisions of Aetna, which is dropping out of Delaware's indy market next year altogether. That leaves just Highmark BCBS, unless Golden Rule has surprised me by enrolling a significant number of people off-exchange this year.
A couple of days ago, Trump's CMS division of the HHS Dept. released a Q1 2017 ACA exchange effectuation report. This should have been of mild interest to data geeks like me but not especially controversial...except that, as I noted at the time, they played fast & loose with which enrollment/payment data they did and didn't include. As a result, the report made it look like post-open enrollment attrition was dramatically worse in the first quarter of 2017 than it was in previous years. Instead, when you match up the data to match prior years, it looks like the retention rate as of March is actually pretty much exactly the same, or potentially even slightly better.
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump told Republican senators lunching at the White House Tuesday the House-passed health care reform bill he celebrated earlier this year was "mean," a source told CNN.
Trump made clear multiple times that he was pleased that the Senate negotiations appeared to be moving away from where the House version of the repeal and replace effort ended up, according to three sources familiar with the meeting.
Trump told the lawmakers that the House bill didn't go far enough in protecting individuals in the marketplace -- and appeared to use that as his rationale for why he has ambiguously called twice for the Senate to "add more money" to the bill.
...But the comment belies the celebratory Rose Garden ceremony Trump hosted earlier this year when the House passed the bill and the President championed it as "incredibly well crafted."
Normally I don't post my Rate Hike Project analysis for a state until I have rate filing data available for all (or nearly all) of the individual market enrollees on hand.
I'm making an exception in the case of Michigan, however, because a) it's my home state, and b) My wife, son and I happen to be enrolled in an ACA exchange policy ourselves, via Blue Care Network (the HMO division of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan).
Unfortunately, as of today (6/13) only one carrier has submitted their 2018 rate filing for the ACA-compliant individual market...and it's BCBSMI itself. That is, the PPO division of Blue Cross, not the HMO division.
Every summer for the past few years, the CMS division of the HHS Dept. has released a quarterly report stating how many ACA exchange enrollees are still enrolled in effectuated policies as of March 31st of that year.
The precise wording of this is important, because (as Republicans and other ACA detractors have been shouting about since day one), just because someone signus up for a healthcare policy doesn't mean that they actually pay their first month's premium to be enrolled...and even if they do, some of them will then drop their policy a few months later for any number of reasons (new job with benefits, moving to a different state, turning 65 and moving to Medicare, falling on hard times and qualifying for Medicaid or, in some cases...dying).
The first year of ACA Open Enrollment, running from 10/1/13 - 3/31/14, was a bit of a mess, due not only to the technical meltdown at launch but also the whole system being brand-new to everyone on the individual market. A full six months was given for the enrollment period, and even then there was so much pent-up demand at the end of March that an extra 2 weeks was tacked onto the end, for a total Open Enrollment period of 197 days.
Senate Republicans are on track to finish writing their draft health care bill this evening, but have no plans to publicly release the bill, according to two senior Senate GOP aides.
"We aren't stupid," said one of the aides. One issue is that Senate Republicans plan to keep talking about it after the draft is done: "We are still in discussions about what will be in the final product so it is premature to release any draft absent further member conversations and consensus."
...Democratic senators are already slamming Republicans for the secrecy of their bill writing process, and this isn't going to help. Republicans are sure to release the bill at some point, but it's unclear when — and they want to vote on it in the next three weeks, before the July 4 recess.
Laura Packard is a friend of mine. We first met about 10 years ago at a state convention in Detroit. She's an all-around awesome person, and one of the most accomplished people I know. Here's just a sampling:
I'm a partner at PowerThru Consulting, a growing national progressive digital consulting shop. At PowerThru we help nonprofits and Democratic campaigns use technology to spread their message and organize and activate their supporters online, to create change offline. We have staff in several states, and work with non-profits of all kinds and on progressive state and federal issues, campaigns and elections of all kinds. We've won four Reed awards and three Pollies for our work to date (including Best Congressional Website in both, Best State/Local Organization Website, Best County/Local/Judicial Website).
I'm a regular contributor to Campaigns & Elections magazine, Huffington Post, and Epolitics.
As I've written about more times than I can remember, for all the very real and highly damaging GOP sabotage of the ACA over the years, there are some problems which were, quite frankly, inherent in the law as passed itself. This should be no great revelation, since it is a major piece of legislation which impacts nearly 1/5th of the entire economy is always going to have some problems to deal with, just as the 1.0 version of any piece of software will always have to have updates and patches applied. If this wasn't the case, there wouldn't be any amendments to the U.S. Constitution (not even the 2nd, so beloved by the GOP).
In any event, one of the biggest flaws with the ACA itself is that the formula and rules for individual market tax credit eligibility are, quite simply, too stingy. They only apply to those falling within 100-400% of the Federal Poverty Level (roughly $12,000 - $48,000 for a single adult, or $24,000 - $96,000 for a family of 4), Within that income range, subsidies drop off on a sliding scale, based on what percentage of household income the benchmark Silver policy costs. Here's the official chart:
This is rather amazing, really. With all the dramatic twists and turns that the Trumpcare/AHCA debacle has taken in the 3 months since it was slapped together by Paul Ryan & Co., you'd think that there would be some movement of the approval numbers, wouldn't you?
American voters disapprove 62 - 17 percent of the Republican health care plan, compared to a 57 - 20 percent disapproval in a May 25 Quinnipiac University poll. Today, Republicans approve of the health care plan 42 - 25 percent, as every other listed party, gender, education, age or racial group disapproves by wide margins.
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!
UPDATE: Some people are crediting me with creating the "3-legged stool" metaphor, which simply isn't the case; that credit goes to (I believe) MIT Economics Professor Jonathan Gruber, who came up with the metaphor back in 2006 while helping develop Mitt Romney's "RomneyCare" model for Massachusetts, which was the basis for the ACA's exchange model for the individual insurance market.
I'm simply expanding on the metaphor to explain some of the terms and concepts which are swirling around these days during the repeal/replace brouhaha.
Eleven health insurers have filed 71 plans for Washington state’s 2018 individual health insurance market:
Six insurers inside the Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder.
Eight insurers outside the Exchange.
Two insurers selling both inside and outside the Exchange.
Currently, no insurer has filed plans in two counties – Klickitat and Grays Harbor.
Two insurers, Community Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, announced earlier this year that they will not participate in the 2018 individual health insurance market.
This chart sets forth the average premium rate adjustments that health insurers have requested from the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS). There are 16 insurers that have submitted individual rates and 20 insurers that have submitted small group rates for 2018. These are the rates insurers have requested and are not the final premium rates DFS will approve. Under the Insurance Law, the Superintendent may deny or modify the requested rates if she finds that the insurer's request is unreasonable, excessive, discriminatory or inadequate based on sound actuarial assumptions and methods (Insurance Law §§ 3231(e)(1), 4308(c)). From the date DFS posts insurer rate applications on the DFS website, the public will have 30 days to submit comments to DFS on the proposed rates. The total percentage requested rate increase for individual and for small group on the chart below represent a weighted average that accounts for the relative share of overall enrollment for each insurer.
So, I got back from my trip to the NIHCM awards dinner in DC late last night, and am groggily attempting to bone up on all the healthcare stuff which happened while I was gone (ironic, of course, given that I was attending a healthcare-related event filled with other healthcare wonks/reporters).
Between updating the "Who could lose coverage" graphics, prepping for my town hall thing last night and updating the 2018 Rate Hike project, I've gotten way behind on my "Who's saying 'screw rate hikes, I'm just gonna bail completely next year' updates. Let's take care of that now, OK? The first three updates are courtesy of Louise Norris writing for healthinsurance.org; the fourth is vai Kimberly Leonard for the Washington Examiner:
Insurers in Idaho had to submit forms for 2018 plans by May 15, but they have until June 2 to file rates. Mountain Health CO-OP, SelectHealth, PacificSource and Blue Cross of Idaho all filed forms to continue to offer Your Health Idaho plans in 2018.
I've been warning for months now that the Trump administration is doing everything possible to disrupt, undermine and otherwise sabotage the ACA exchanges as much as possible. Yes, the GOP in general has been doing so for 7 years now, but they've really shifted it into overdrive now that they hold all the cards.
In the past, some of those sabotage efforts were obvious and had a direct impact on the exchanges (the Risk Corridor Massacre, for instance) while others were smaller, less obvious and harder to pinpoint a precise cause/effect relationship (red states attempting to obstruct ACA navigators, for example). Donald Trump and his rogue's gallery of cretins are not exactly known for their subtlety, however, so his obstruction/sabotage efforts have been pretty blatant, including:
Insurance Commissioner Announces Single-Digit Aggregate 2018 Individual and Small Group Market Rate Requests, Confirming Move Toward Stability Unless Congress or the Trump Administration Act to Disrupt Individual Market
The ASPE report made a simple claim: That average individual market premiums have more than doubled since ACA-compliant policies were launched in 2014. It plugged in the average individual market premiums for this year and compared them against the average indy market premiums for 2013 (the last year before all newly-enrolled policies had to be ACA compliant). It only included the 39 states maintained by the federal exchange, HealthCare.Gov, and concluded that on average, monthly premiums had increased from $224 in 2013 to $476 in 2017...a 105% increase over 4 years.