Time: D H M S


From the Cabinet Meeting scene in the comedy "Dave":

DAVE: Now the Commerce Department..,

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (sitting erect): Yes, Mr. President?

DAVE (from a card): You're spending forty-seven million dollars on an ad campaign to... (reading) 'Boost consumer confidence in the American auto industry.'

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Um...yes,'s designed to bolster individual confidence in a previous domestic automotive purchase.

DAVE: So we're spending forty-seven million dollars so someone can feel better about a car they've already bought?

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Yes, sir, but I wouldn't characterize it that way...

DAVE (indignant): Well I'm sure that's really important, but I don't want to tell some eight- year-old kid he's got to sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their cars. (beat) Do you want to tell him that?

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (quietly): No sir...(looks at TV cameras) sir, I sure don't.

Except he's not threatening to shoot a dog; he's threatening the lives of nearly half a million of his constituents.

Bevin issues ultimatum: If courts block Medicaid plan, half million Kentuckians will lose care

Gov. Matt Bevin has issued an executive order that would strip Medicaid coverage from nearly half a million Kentuckians should his proposed overhaul of the federal-state health plan be struck down in court.

No one has filed a legal challenge to Bevin's changes to Kentucky's Medicaid program that federal authorities approved Friday.

But several advocacy groups have said some of the changes — such as requiring some "able-bodied" adults to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week — likely will be challenged in court because they violate federal law that establishes Medicaid purely as a health program and does not authorize work requirements.

*UPDATE: Some have accused me of hyperbole in the headline because a) it's a "state-approved health or financial literacy" course, not a "can you read" test and b) because it would only be required if they're unable to meet the requirements in other ways. I guess I can see their point, but it strikes me as splitting hairs:

First, "literacy course" was their wording, not mine (I guess there's a distinction between "completeing a course" and "passing a test"?).

Second, there doesn't appear to be any real description of the "courses" in question--how long it is, what the criteria for measuring "completion" is, who would be conducting the course, whether you'd have to attend classes in person (vs doing so online?), how many sessions there'd be and so forth. Here's the description as laid out in the waiver request itself:

When I ran the requested rate hike numbers for Kentucky in early August, it looked like the only 2 carriers participating in the individual market next year (CareSource and Anthem BCBS) were asking for pretty hefty hikes of around 30.8% on average...and that assumed CSR reimbursement payments would be made next year. If they aren't, based on the Kaiser Family Foundation's estimates, I tacked on an additional 13.8% for a requested average of 44.3%. Ouch.

Since then, the Kentucky DOI has posted the approved rates...and the final numbers aren't not too far off, I'm afraid to say:

A week ago, Vox's Sarah Kliff reported that the Trump Administration was slashing the 2018 Open Enrollment Period advertising budget by 90% and the navigator/outreach grant budget by nearly 40%. As I noted at the time, the potential negative impact of these moves on enrollment numbers this fall--coming on top of the period being slashed in half, the CSR reimbursement and mandate enforcement sabotage efforts of the Trump/Price HHS Dept. and the general confusion and uncertainty being felt by the GOP spending the past 7 months desperately attempting to repeal the ACA altogether could be significant. In states utilizing the federal exchange (HealthCare.Gov), 2017 enrollment was running neck & neck with 2016 right up until the critical final week...which played out under the Trump Administration, which killed off the final ad/marketing blitz.

Result? A 5.3% total enrollment drop (or 4.7% if you don't include Louisiana, which expanded Medicaid halfway through the year) via, while the 12 state-based exchanges--which run their own marketing/advertising budgets--saw a 1.8% increase in total enrollment year over year.

Yesterday saw two ugly setbacks for the ACA in Virginia and Kentucky. First, Optima announced that they were pulling out of about half the counties in the state and is resubmitting much higher rates for the other half, in large part due to the failure of the Trump Administration and the GOP Congress to commit to making CSR reimbursement payments next year. This also leaves 63 Virginia counties in jeopardy of "going bare" without any individual market carriers whatsoever.

At the same time, Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky announced that they, too, are dropping out of half of that state...once again pinning much of the blame on the CSR issue specifically:

Anthem on Wednesday continued reducing its Obamacare business, as the big insurer said it will cut in half the number of counties in Kentucky where it sells individual health plans next year.

Louise Norris gave me a heads up that the Kentucky Insurance Dept. has posted their 2018 rate hike filings as well. The individual market is pretty straightforward...and pretty grim: Both individual market carriers, CareSource and Anthem, are asking for pretty steep rate hikes even if CSR payments are locked in next year, averaging around 30.8%, while assuming another 13.5 points on top of that (71% of Kaiser's 19% Silver average) would bring the average up to around 44.3%. Not much else to say about this one for the moment.

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)...


I used to write about Kentucky quite a bit shortly after incoming GOP Governor Matt Bevin made good on his promise to disassemble their beloved and award-winning "kynect" state ACA exchange. I haven't written much about the state since then, however, until now.

Bevin made two major campaign promises while running to replace former Democratic Governor Steve Beshear (who expanded Medicaid and established kynect via executive order): He said he'd kill kynect and get rid of ACA Medicaid expansion. He stuck to his guns on the former, and while it's a damned shame that he did so for a number of reasons (it was working perfectly well, had a high public image and awareness, etc), it didn't cause too much damage, since KY simply shifted to the federal exchange instead (HealthCare.Gov). Enrollment did drop off by over 13% year over year, but a few other states saw similar drops, so the move probably wasn't a major factor.

In Kentucky, assuming 80,000 people enroll in private exchange policies by the end of January, I estimate around 43,000 of them would be forced off of their private policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal, plus another 443,000 enrolled in the ACA Medicaid expansion program, for a total of 487,000 residents kicked to the curb.

As for the individual market, my standard methodology applies:

From Phil Galewitz Via NPR:

In Depressed Rural Kentucky, Worries Mount Over Medicaid Cutbacks

For Freida Lockaby, an unemployed 56-year-old woman who lives with her dog in an aging mobile home in Manchester, Ky., one of America's poorest places, the Affordable Care Act was life altering.

The law allowed Kentucky to expand Medicaid in 2014 and made Lockaby – along with 440,000 other low-income state residents – newly eligible for free health care under the state-federal insurance program. Enrollment gave Lockaby her first insurance in 11 years.

"It's been a godsend to me," said the former Ohio school custodian who moved to Kentucky a decade ago.

...But Lockaby is worried her good fortune could soon end. Her future access to health care now hinges on a controversial proposal to revamp the program that her state's Republican governor has submitted to the Obama administration.

More last-minute shuffling... (h/t commenter "M E"):

Baptist Health Plan to stop selling insurance in Ky.

FRANKFORT (AP) — Baptist Health Plan says it will not sell policies in Kentucky next year, meaning about 7,000 people will have to find a new insurance provider.

Kentucky’s fourth-largest insurer notified state officials in a letter. In a news release, state officials say company President James S. Fritz said Baptist Health Plan had enrolled more people than it planned and said federal risk assessments imposed by the federal Affordable Care Act are “unsustainable.”

The company’s insurance plans sold on the state’s health exchange will be good through Dec. 31. Plans sold off the exchange will expire March 31, 2017.

The news means next year people in 59 counties will have one insurance provider selling plans on the state health exchange. Off the exchange, most counties will have two options, state officials said.

When I ran Kentucky's average requested rate hike numbers for the individual market back in May, I came up with a weighted average of 23.8%, but also cautioned that the weighting was likely based on less than 50% of the total ACA-compliant individual market state-wide.

Since then, it looks like a couple of the carriers resubmitted their filings with slightly different average requests, although nothing major. In fact, even Aetna dropping off the exchange doesn't change much, since it looks like they only have around 400 enrollees there anyway (plus, Aetna says they're sticking around the off-exchange market in "most" of the regions they're bailing on next year). Finally, as far as I can tell, Kentucky is among the states that Humana is not abandoning (though they might be reducing their footprint there?).

Anyway, just moments ago, according to SHADAC, the Kentucky DOI has posted their approved rates for the individual market:

Long-time readers may have noticed that after a flurry of posts about Matt Bevin's jackassery last fall, I haven't written much of anything about Kentucky lately. In fact, aside from an entry about KY's 2017 rate hike requests (as part of my national project), I haven't said a peep about Kentucky since March. At the time Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post noted that it looked very much like for all of Bevin's hot air and bluster...

But a funny thing happened on the way to the governor's office: Bevin's anti-Obamacare rhetoric started to tone down as Election Day approached. And in the months since he's been chief executive of Kentucky,instead of ripping up Obamacare out of his state, Bevin is making alterations to how the law works there and leaving its core elements and benefits in place.

Not much to say about the bluegrass state...taken together, the 6 carriers offering individual policies in Kentucky appear to be requesting an average rate hike of 23.8%, ranging from Aetna's single-digits for a few hundred people up to Golden Rule's stroke-inducing 65% hike. One thing to note is that KY's total individual market was around 163,000 people in 2015, and is likely around 25% higher today (around 203,000), so over half of the market is likely missing from this table: