As regular readers know, every spring/summer I spend countless hours poring over the annual insurance carrier rate filings, plugging in increases (and occasionally decreases) in ACA-compliant premium changes for every carrier in every state. I actually do this twice for most states (and occasionally even three times), as the process moves from preliminary/requested rate changes to "semifinal" rates to "final/approved" rates throughout the fall.
For 2018 and again for 2019, I've taken this one step further; instead of simply running the overall weighted average premium changes in each state, I've also attempted to break out what portion of the change is caused by various factors...in particular, what portion is caused by legislative or regulatory changes by Congressional Republicans and/or the Trump Administration.
In June 2018, President Trump’s administration announced – as part of a lawsuit known as Texas v. United States, brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general – it will no longer defend the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
For weeks now, I've been painstakingly analyzing and plugging in the preliminary 2019 rate change data for ACA-compliant individual market as each state submits their filings. As of today, I've compiled data for 18 states (+DC), comprising perhaps 40% of the total ACA individual market, give or take. The table below shows where things stand at the moment.
Those yellow and manilla cells at the bottom are not a typo: To the best of my estimates so far, the insurance carriers across these 19 markets are asking for average 2019 unsubsidized premium rate increases of around 10-11%...however, as far as I can tell, they would be keeping rates FLAT year over year (on average), for the first time since the ACA launched, if not for three sabotage efforts by Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans: Repeal of the ACA's individual mandate, and Trump's removal of restrictions on non-ACA compliant "Short-Term, Limited Duration" and "Association" plans, which I've shorthanded as simply #ShortAssPlans....and in fact would actually be dropping in quite a few states (or, in the case of Minnesota, dropping more than they already are set to with those factors):
Over at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Karen Pollitz and Gary Claxton have published a handy explainer which goes over the basics of the various types of NON-ACA individual market policies...specifically, the "Short Term" and "Association" plans which Donald Trump is attempting to flood the market with by essentially removing any restrictions or regulations on them, but also the "Idaho Style" plans which were rejected by HHS for being flat-out illegal as well as the "Farm Bureau" junk plans which Iowa recently decided to open the floodgates on (Tennessee already had a similar setup, and sure enough, it has proven pretty devastating to Tennessee's ACA market since 2014 as a result). The whole thing is worth a read, but in the early part of their explainer, however, they also happened to neatly lend support to my estimates from last week regarding the unsubsidized market:
The Kaiser Family Foundation runs a widely-respected monthly natonal tracking poll about healthcare issues. The questions they ask sometimes change from month to month, and this month they asked a whole bunch of questions about...the Individual Market and the ACA exchanges. In other words, pretty much a bonanza of data-nuggety goodness for this site:
As part of the Republican tax reform plan signed into law at the end of 2017, lawmakers eliminated the ACA’s individual mandate penalty starting in 2019. About one-fifth of non-group enrollees (19 percent) are aware the mandate penalty has been repealed but is still in effect for this year. Regardless of the lack of awareness, nine in ten non-group enrollees say they intend to continue to buy their own insurance even with the repeal of the individual mandate. About one-third (34 percent) say the mandate was a “major reason” why they chose to buy insurance.
With all the discussion about subsidized enrollees, unsubsidized enrollees, short-term plans, association plans, health sharing ministries and so forth swirling around the ACA stabilization/CSR reimbursement payment/Silver Loading debate, I just wanted to take a quick moment to remind everyone that "The Uninsured" isn't a single amorphous blob; it consists of several fairly specific subsets.
The good news is that the Kaiser Family Foundation is among the most reliable sources for this sort of data in the business. The bad news is that their estimates are out of date--this analysis/breakout was last updated in October 2017, but the actual survey data is from 2016. Needless to say, a lot has changed in the intervening year and a half...namely, the Trump Administration and two full ACA Open Enrollment Periods.
The Kaiser Family Foundation runs a highly respected monthly national tracking poll on healthcare issues. Their latest was just released, and while there's a bunch of interesting stuff included, there are two main takeaways. Here's the first:
The February Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds a slight increase in the share of the public who say they have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), from 50 percent in January 2018 to 54 percent this month. This is the highest level of favorability of the ACA measured in more than 80 Kaiser Health Tracking Polls since 2010. This change is largely driven by independents, with more than half (55 percent) now saying they have a favorable opinion of the law compared to 48 percent last month. Large majorities (83 percent) of Democrats continue to view the law favorably (including six in ten who now say they hold a “very favorable” view, up from 48 percent last month) while nearly eight in ten Republicans (78 percent) view the law unfavorably (unchanged from last month).
As anyone who's visited the site the past few days knows, I've spent countless hours digging up data to find out exactly how many people are enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP specifically due to the ACA's expansion provision. This is much more difficult than you'd think for a variety of reasons. For one thing, each state seems to have different methodology for how they track and report Medicaid enrollees (some weekly, some monthly, some quarterly, etc). For another, there's a wide variety of eligibility thresholds under pre-ACA Medicaid for different groups of residents in each state (pregnant women, infants, children, parents, etc), and since the funding mechanism varies depending on whether the enrollee qualifies for "normal" Medicaid or "ACA expansion" Medicaid, categorization can be tricky. Finally, due to the churn factor (people moving up and down the income scale as well as gaining or losing job-based or other forms of coverage), the numbers can jump around from month to month or even week to week.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released their 3rd Annual survey of people enrolled in the "Non-Group Health Insurance Market", otherwise known as the Individual market. It's important to note that this survey includes Americans enrolled in all individual market plans, both on and off-exchange. There are technically 5 separate categories, although they can effectively be merged into three categories for most purposes:
1. EXCHANGE-based QHPs (Qualified Health Plans)
2a. OFF-Exchange QHPs
2b. OFF-Exchange ACA-compliant non-QHPs
3a. OFF-Exchange NON-ACA compliant "Grandfathered" plans (ie, enrolled in prior to 2010)
3b. OFF-Exchange NON-ACA compliant "Transitional" or "Grandmothered" plans (ie, enrolled in between 2010 and 2013)
I tend to merge #2 & 3 together (off-exchange, ACA-compliant) in virtually all cases, and merge #4 & 5 together (grandfathered/grandmothered) except in cases where I need to make a distinction.
This really shouldn't be considered profound or prescient, but the entire concept of of "free market competition" only works as intended if the customers actually shop around and compare their options. If people just ignore changes in the offerings available and stick with what they have regardless of the new options available, the "competition = better value" mantra collapses.
That's why I've been stressing the importance of shopping around on the ACA exchanges (or even off-exchange) so much this year. As I noted back in October: