2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

Charles Gaba's blog

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?

Well, technically there has been: It went from 17% approval in March to 21% approval in May...

...and as of last week, had dropped right back down again to the same 17% it started out with:

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. 

(sigh) OK, this is getting very confusing now.

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.

This just in from the Washington State insurance commissioner's office...

Eleven health insurers file for 2018 individual market in 37 counties, leaving two with no coverage
Kreidler: Trump administration’s actions fuel insurers’ uncertainty, harm consumers

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.

Thanks to Bill Hammond of the Empire Center for the heads up.

Like Pennsylvania, the New York Dept. of Financial Services made it very easy for me this year:

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).

In the past 2 days...

Of the 31 states which have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, only a handful issue regular monthly or weekly enrollment reports.

I noted in February that enrollment in the ACA's Medicaid expansion program had increased by around 35,000 people across just 4 states (LA, MI, MN & PA).

It's early June now, so I checked in once more, and the numbers have continued to grow. I have the direct links for 5 states now (including New Hampshire)...

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:

IDAHO: BridgeSpan is out, 4 carriers staying put:

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:

Pennsylvania is way too easy for me this year; I don't even have to plug numbers into a spreadsheet to figure out the statewide average rate hikes.

Why? Because the state insurance commissioner has already done the math for me...and then some:

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

Last week Donald Trump's new Assistant Secretary for Planning & Evaluation, Stephen Parente (an avowed and open opponent of Obamacare) issued a hit piece on the ACA just one day ahead of the Congressional Budget Office's devastating report on the GOP's AHCA "replacement" healthcare plan.

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.

IMPORTANT: ALL ESTIMATES BELOW are based on the CBO score of the HOUSE GOP version of the Trumpcare bill (AHCA).

Here's the updated link to the state/district breakout of the SENATE GOP version of Trumpcare (BCRAP) as of 6/27/17.

ALL 435 CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS NOW INCLUDED (broken out by state)

For 2017, North Carolina's unsubsidized, weighted average individual market rate hikes came in at around 24.2%. With carriers like Aetna, United Healthcare, Humana and Celtic all dropping out of the NC exchange market, there wasn't much math to do in order to find a weighted average: The only individual market carriers left were Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, Cigna and "National Foundation Life Insurance", which is basically a non-entity shell company related to "Freedom Life", the less said about the better. Since Cigna only had around 1,200 indy market enrollees at the time (less than 0.5% of the total market share), that pretty much left BCBSNC as the only game in town, so their 24.3% hike was the whole shebang for the state.

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