California

Earlier today Connecticut and Minnesota announced deadline extensions; now CoveredCA has done so as well...

California’s health insurance exchange extended its deadline for consumers wanting Obamacare coverage in effect by Jan. 1.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said people who start the application process or make some “good faith effort” by Monday will have until Dec. 21 to finish signing up. Monday at midnight had previously been the hard deadline.

“We are providing this window to get people across the finish line,” Lee said at an exchange board meeting Monday. “We know many of the people applying have never had insurance before, and these are individuals who need to sit down and talk with someone.”

Lee said many insurance agents and enrollment counselors were already fully booked with applicants Monday. He said the deadline extension will allow people to make appointments through Dec. 21.

A nice update out of California...but still a frustrating one. They held an executive board meeting today at which they posted an updated QHP selection total for 2015: 91,693 as of 12/11/14. Unfortunately, this still doesn't include any renewal data for existing enrollees.

As I noted last week, however, I'm extremely confident that CA's renewals/re-enrollments are running easily at the same rate (or potentially as high as 4x as many) as new additions, so I'm very comfortable doubling this number to at least 184,000 total QHP selections as of the 11th.

Just moments ago, CoveredCA head Peter Lee held a conference call in which he issued the first full 2015 open enrollment period data (until now, the only number released was 11,357 QHPs in the first 4 days...except that only included new enrollees, not renewals).

As I noted yesterday, I estimated appx. 397K QHPs through Monday (12/08). I'm also guessing it'll be about a 55/45 split between renewals of existing enrollees & new additions.

The actual number of NEW QHP enrollments turns out to be: From 11/15 - 12/03: 130K determined elgiible, of whom 48,950 have selected plans...

Hmmm. Well, now...on the surface, this makes it look like I was way off, overestimating by a whopping 8-fold factor.

HOWEVER, there are two rather important (and unexpected) points which make that comparison impossible:

I've received official confirmation that CoveredCA will give their first official 2015 Open Enrollment Period data report tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

I'm gonna take a stab at their number:

  • IF I'm correct that Healthcare.Gov hit 1.35 million QHP selections as of 12/05, and
  • IF I'm further correct that Healthcare.Gov is consistently making up appx. 75% of the national total at any given time, and
  • IF I'm further correct that the total QHP selections as of 12/08 hit around 2.21 million, and
  • IF I'm also correct that CoveredCA is making up appx. 18% of the national total, THEN...

...CoveredCA's total through 12/08/14 should be around 397,000 QHP selections.

We'll see how close I come.

(sigh) OK, I wasn't gonna post any more updates today but this is kind of a big one..CoveredCA:

Obamacare: @CoveredCA says 11,357 enrolled in health plans in 4 days of open enrollment Nov 15-18 #ACA #OE2

— Chad Terhune (@chadterhune) November 20, 2014

For comparison...

Obamacare enrollment: @CoveredCA signed up 11,357 in first 4 days, took 15 days to hit that in Oct 2013 #ACA #OE2

— Chad Terhune (@chadterhune) November 20, 2014

It's also important to remember that unlike HC.gov, CoveredCA was (for the most part, anyway) fully operational from the beginning last year, which makes this a reasonable apples-to-apples comparison.

In addition, Terhune clarifies:

When I last checked in on ACA Medicaid expansion in California back in mid-September, it had reached a whopping 2.2 million...or possibly as high as 2.55 million, depending on whether the number included a massive backlog of 350,000 CA residents.

Well, it now seems that not only has that question been answered, but the grand total is a bit higher yet: 2.6 million low-income Californians can thank Obamacare for their newfound healthcare coverage:

The state Medi-Cal system has taken on 2.7 million more Californians since October 2013.

That's an increase of 31% from the 8.6 million previously enrolled. The jump brings the current number of Californians in the Medi-Cal program to 11.3 million -- roughly 30% of the state's population. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

There's been a lot of fuss made about 2015 ACA exchange premium rates not being available at Healthcare.Gov until after the election. The presumption, of course, is that this is being done for political reasons. While this may be true, it could also simply be that there's a lot of different policy figures to plug into the federal system, and some states haven't even finalized their rates yet.

That being said, residents of some states can check out the 2015 premiums now and compare them against their current premium:

IDAHO: Idaho is the only state moving from HC.gov to their own exchange. Idaho residents can check out their 2015 rates directly via the state exchange site.

CALIFORNIA: CoveredCA has 2015 rates available right now as well.

WASHINGTON: Health Exchange leaders are trying to solve the problems from the first sign-up period

CLARKSTON, WA – Leaders with Washington’s Health Care Exchange are preparing for the second open enrollment period, but at the same time they are still working on resolving billing and computer problems for 1,300 accounts from the first sign-up period.

IOWA: Three health insurers get OK to increase rates

This is very confusingly worded, because it makes it sound like all 3 companies have been operating on the HC.gov exchange when it turns out that only 2 of them have. Wellmark did not participate in the ACA exchange; the 19,000 customers referred to here have off-exchange policies which are still ACA-compliant:

Commissioner Nick Gerhart said today that he has approved premium increases from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, CoOportunity Health and Coventry Health.

OK, I've started a new entry since the last one was getting pretty long.

I still have to sort through a bunch of data, but the main takeaway is this:

  • I projected the total California QHP enrollment figure to be around 1.68 million. The actual number is 1,414,668 (as of 4/15...see update at bottom of this page) plus 200,000 off-season enrollments from 6/1 - 9/30 plus an unknown number from the 46 days between 4/16 - 5/31.
  • I have no idea why they left those 46 days out of the press conference. Very odd.
  • There were 200,000 people who enrolled from June 1st - September 30th (122 days), or 1,639 people per day.
  • Assuming the missing 46 days saw a similar rate to the rest of the off-season period, that would be 1,639 x 46 = 75,394 additional enrollees.
  • Assuming this is correct, that's 1,614,668 + 75,394 = 1,690,062
  • That would make my projection 99.4% accurate.

Regular readers know that given the HHS Dept's going radio silent on the total ACA enrollment figures since the last official report was released back in May (which only ran through April 19th), I've been patching together bits and pieces of enrollment data from a handful of state exchanges, plus the occasional snippet of info from other states which has managed to find daylight from time to time.

Based on this, I've been projecting roughly 9,000 QHP enrollments being added per day during the off-season, translating into around 270,000 per month, of which about 90% eventually pay their first months premium. That translates to around 240K paid enrollees being added per month, which in turn is being roughly cancelled out by people dropping their policies after the first few months as they move on to other types of coverage (Medicare, ESI, Medicaid and so forth). Based on these estimates, there should now be a gross total of around 9.6 million enrollments, of which around 8.3 million have paid their first premium, and around 7.4 million who are currently enrolled as of October.

I'm pleased to announce that as ACASignups.net enters its' second year in operation, I've also started writing occasional pieces for healthinsurance.org:

Since 1994, healthinsurance.org has been a guide for consumers seeking straightforward explanations about the workings of individual health insurance– also known as medical insurance – and help finding affordable coverage.

The topic of insurance can be confusing, but we’re here with more information than ever: educational articles, expert health policy analysis, frequently asked questions about reform, a health insurance glossary, and guides to the health marketplaces and other insurance resources in each state.

I can't think of another publication outside of this one where what I do here is more appropriate. Looking at the list of other contributors, I'm honored to join their company.

My debut contribution to healthinsurance.org is an update regarding the citizenship/immigration data situation for Covered California enrollees...and the implications it may have for the rest of the country. Please take a look!

Let's fire up the Wayback Machine® and revisit March 19, 2014, shall we?

Don't Feed the Trolls: A Special Entry for a Special Visitor

...A few days ago, I broke the cardinal rule of blogging and social media: I fed a troll. Specifically, I engaged in a back & forth with a guy who insisted that I don't have any clue what I'm talking about, that I "don't cite my sources" (insane, since every one of my sources is meticulously cited, dated and linked to)...and, in particular, that I'm "lying" about the number of California residents who have "fully" enrolled in exchange-based QHPs in California (and by extension, nationally). If you check the recent Disqus comments you'll see him pop up a few times today.

At first, he was arguing the "But how many have PAID???" line, which I've repeatedly addressed.

Interestingly, he was finally willing to (grudgingly) concede that yes, around 85% of "full enrollments" have indeed been paid to date.

However, he still insisted that the number of "full" enrollments only "counts" if the policy has actually been issued:

G'mar Hatimah Tovah. Yes, I know I shouldn't be posting this on Yom Kippur Eve, but this seemingly minor news item means volumes to me personally.

I've spent 5 solid months pain-stakingly piecing together the best projection I could for off-season exchange QHP enrollments, using bits and pieces of data from a dozen or so states...mainly Minnesota, Oregon, Hawaii, Colorado and Washington State. In the absence of official updates from Healthcare.Gov (36 states) or the 2 largest state-run exchanges (California and New York), however, I was never completely sure about how close I was to the actual number, since the data I did have only covered perhaps 8% of the population.

Still, I eventually gave up hope that either NY or CA would bring their numbers up to date, forging ahead with my overall estimate of roughly 9,000 additional QHP enrollments being added daily during the off-season, 90% of those paying for their first month's premium, and roughly an equal number dropping their coverage sometime later...meaning that at any given time during the off-season, roughly 90% of the April 19th "official" number would be likely to still be enrolled and paying up.

Hmmm...now this is interesting. Yesterday it was brought to my attention via Twitter that the Covered California website (or at least the actual off-season enrollment portion of it) had been offline for "2+ weeks". Sure enough, when I took a look for myself, after clicking past the home page, the enrollment section had a message saying that it was offline for maintenance but that I should "check back on September 15th". Of course, seeing how it was Sept. 28th when I read this, that suggests that the maintenance started sometime before the 15th and continued well past the estimated completion date.

@CoveredCA website has been down for 2+ weeks. What are people supposed to do? At least update your home page. #ACASignups #CoveredCA

— Julie Kornack (@jkornack) September 28, 2014

For the most part, this press release from CoveredCA is just a nice overview of the new offerings available on the little-discussed SHOP (small business) ACA exchange. As you may recall, CA was one of the few SHOP exchanges which ever got off the ground at all last year, and even then technical issues resulted in the exchange taking it offline back in February. When I last updated CA's SHOP total, it was at only 4,900 people...however, according to this PR, that number has more than doubled since last spring, and now stands at 11,510:

Sept. 19, 2014

COVERED CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCES INSURANCE PLANS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IN 2015

Carriers Remain Consistent, but New and Expanded • Choices Are Now Available to Employees

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