2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

Julie McPeak is the Tennessee Insurance Commissioner. She was appointed by a Republican Governor, Bill Haslam, and while the position itself appears to be nonpartisan, I've found several links indicating that yes, she's a Republican herself. This is hardly surprising in Tennessee, of course, and there's nothing wrong with it...but it's noteworthy given that Tennessee is among the 19 states which has been fairly hostile towards the ACA in general over the years (no state exchange, no Medicaid expansion, total GOP control and so forth).

I've noted repeatedly that while every year brings some amount of premium rate hikes and/or carriers dropping out of the exchanges (or off the entire individual market), there's a major new factor impacting both this time around: The Trump/GOP Sabotage/Uncertainty Factor. This includes, but isn't limited to:

Oregon is the 5th state to post their initial 2018 rate filings. Last year their weighted average increase was roughly 26.5% across 10 individual market carriers. This year I only see 8 carriers offering policies on the indy market, but the two missing are "Trillium" and "ZOOM", neither of which had more than a handful of enrollees to begin with.

As you can see, ATRIO Health Plans was refreshingly clear in their rate justification letter, not only listing the key numbers (covered lives, average increase) but the reasons for it: 4% due to the reinstatement of the ACA's carrier tax; 1% due to them choosing to shrink their own coverage area from 6 counties to just 2; an increase for smokers., etc. They list 4,250 people being impacted by the increase; I don't know the population of the other 4 counties they're pulling out of, but assuming they're roughly equal, around 8,000 current enrollees will have to shop around this fall.

Regular readers know that generally speaking, I support the ACA overall. They also know that I also have significant criticisms of the law, and have compiled a lengthy list of fixes/improvements both small and large which I feel are necessary to stabilize the individual market. I've also written on occasion about the SHOP provision of the ACA: The small business version of the ACA exchanges.

The idea was to give small businesses with fewer than 50 employees an open marketplace to comparison shop, similar to the individual exchanges, and also to provide some amount of financial assistance to them along the lines of APTC for indy market enrollees. The ACA requires businesses with over 50 full-time employees to provide coverage, but it's voluntary for those under 50, so SHOP has always been more of a courtesy program than a necessary one.

Vermont is the 4th state to post their initial 2018 rate filings. Vermont has a couple of unusual policies re. their healthcare market: First, while they do technically have an off-exchange individual market, those policies are all fully ACA-compliant QHPs and are tracked exactly the same as on-exchange QHPs, meaning this dashboard report from February includes just about all of their individual market enrollees: 28,775 on exchange + 5,662 off-exchange, for a total of 34,437 ACA-compliant enrollees. Vermont didn't allow transitional plans, so aside from an unknown number still enrolled in grandfathered plans, that should represent their entire individual market.

  • Total U.S. Population as of 2009: Around 306 million people
  • Total # of Mothers in U.S. as of 2009: Around 85.4 million
  • Assuming this ratio hasn't shifted much over the past 8 years, around 28% of the total U.S. population are mothers,

Of course, women over 64 (mostly on Medicare) are much more likely than the general population to be mothers...but girls under 18 are far less likely to be (well...under 16, anyway...the birth rate varies from state to state, of course), so I'm assuming that these cancel each other out, resulting in that 28% rate being roughly accurate.

If so, this means that out of the estimated 24 million people who would lose their healthcare coverage if GOP's "American Health Care Act" were to be signed into law, roughly 6.7 million would likely be moms.

I pretty much stole that headline from Politico, but how else was I supposed to word it?

Senate Republicans are working on a potential breakthrough that could help push through an Obamacare repeal bill – by making insurance subsidies look a lot like Obamacare.

There’s growing support for the idea of pegging the tax credits in the House repeal bill to income and making aid more generous for poorer people. But those moves — while they may win consensus among Senate moderates — are unlikely to sit well with House conservatives.

The financial assistance in the House bill “is just not robust enough to make sure that low-income individuals can actually afford a [health] plan,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.). “If you bring those income limits down for people who really need the help, you can give them more help.”

Over the past year or so, Andrew Sprung of Xpostfactoid, Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. Times and I have repeatedly noted that as much as most insurance carriers may be griping about the individual market, their bread and butter is generally in other divisions, including the large group market but especially Managed Medicaid and Medicare Advantage:

The expansion of Medicaid benefits, thanks largely to the Affordable Care Act, helped increase enrollment in private health plans by 3.4 million in the last year,according to a new report from consulting firm PwC.

...PwC said 73% of Medicaid beneficiaries — or 54.7 million of the 75.2 million Americans covered by the health benefit program for the poor – are enrolled in private plans that contract with the Medicaid program.

...But the growth in the last year wasn’t as fast as 2015 when health plans added more than 8 million Medicaid beneficiaries as more states agreed to expand such coverage under the ACA.

I'm not sure what the original source for this is, but the following initial filing deadlines were provided by Stephen Holland via Twitter. I've already posted analyses of the Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut filings. The California and Oregon filings are supposed to have been submitted already but don't appear to be publicly available yet. In addition, it's my understanding that in many states the rates can still be adjusted/resubmitted until as late as August 16th, so I'm not really sure how useful these dates are anyway, but it's at least a guideline.

Headline pretty much says it all:

May 11, 2017 - 21% Of U.S. Voters Approve Of Revised GOP Health Plan, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Voters Reject Trump Tax Plan Almost 2-1

Only 21 percent of American voters approve of the Republican health care plan passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, a slight improvement over the 17 percent who approved of the first health care plan in March, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Overall, the current health plan goes down 56 - 21 percent.

Apparently throwing $8 billion (over 5 years) to the junk pile gave it a 4 point increase. I wonder what would happen if they restored the $840 billion (over 10 year) that the bill takes away from Medicaid?

Except for an anemic 48 - 16 percent support among Republicans, every listed party, gender, educational, age and racial group opposes the plan, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN- uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

Hardly surprising given they made good on their "Give us our merger or we're out of here!" threat last year, followed by further drop-outs from both Iowa and Virginia announced for next year over the past few weeks, but the final Aetna shoe has just dropped:

.@Aetna will not offer on- or off-exchange individual plans in DE or NE for 2018, and at this time has completely exited the exchanges.

— T.J. Crawford (@TJatAetna) May 10, 2017

T.J. Crawford is apparently Aetna's head of media relations, so yeah, that seems pretty definitive.

A bit more courtesy of Peter Sullivan of The Hill:

KIMMEL: "Will the Senate make sure that the millions of children that count on Medicaid don't lose access to medical care because this House bill would cut, they say $880 billion, mostly to benefit wealthy Americans?"

CASSIDY: "Let me answer your question first technically...then more broadly...and then more broadly yet. Most children are covered under the CHIP program, and so they are gonna get the coverage they need. That's almost independent from Medicaid. Under Medicaid itself, though, clearly, if we're gonna fulfill President Trump's sort of "Contract with the American People", that people would maintain their coverage, Medicaid will be a part of that."

I'm not even gonna get into the fact that Donald Trump's word is as worthless as a diploma from Trump University. I'm just gonna focus on the bold section above.

 

Yep, that's pretty much a glimpse of the GOP's plans for Medicaid enrollees.

@Neoavatara @xpostfactoid @sangerkatz @larry_levitt We discussed last March. Public Option does no good if you're murdered by secret police.

— ☪️ Charles Gaba ✡️ (@charles_gaba) September 27, 2016

@Neoavatara @xpostfactoid @sangerkatz @larry_levitt Single Payer will be helpful after his Nazi thugs have beaten you up.

— ☪️ Charles Gaba ✡️ (@charles_gaba) September 27, 2016

UPDATE 6/5/17: NO SITE UPDATES UNTIL WEDNESDAY, AS I'LL BE TRAVELLING TO/FROM D.C. FOR THE 2017 NIHCM FOUNDATION HEALTHCARE DIGITAL MEDIA AWARDS DINNER...

OK, this really isn't news (it's been public for several weeks now), but I was recently selected as one of seven finalists in the 3rd Annual NIHCM Foundation Health Care Digital Media Awards:

The National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the health of Americans by spurring workable and creative solutions to pressing health care problems.

...The NIHCM Foundation Health Care Digital Media Award recognizes excellence in digital media that improves understanding of health care topics through analysis grounded in empirical evidence. The three-year-old award carries a $10,000 prize and is judged by an independent panel of experts:

Last month I wrote up a list of 20 fixes/improvements to the ACA, many of which wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. One fo them was...

12. LEGALLY TIE MEDICARE ADVANTAGE/MANAGED MEDICAID CONTRACTS TO EXCHANGE PARTICIPATION.

Andrew Sprung, Michael Hiltzik and I have all written about this before. I have no idea whether it's even legally feasible/practical or not, but if so, it makes a lot of sense to me: Remember, many of the same carriers whning about losing hundreds of millions of dollars on the individual market are simultaneously making billions of dollars in profit off of their other divisions...which include fat federal and state contracts to manage Medicare and/or Medicaid plans. If they want to play in the managed care sandbox, make exchange participation a requirement as well. I'm not saying they should have to treat it as a loss leader--they'd still be able to raise their premiums at an actuarially responsible rate as appropriate--but they should have to at least participate.

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