New Jersey

2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

Thanks to Maanasa Kona of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown for the heads up:

For the first time since 2014, the # enrolled in individual health plans in the first quarter of the calendar year in NJ went down from the previous year. Commissioner Caride blames the current administration's actions. https://t.co/xuuGLQV7BE pic.twitter.com/rGNpfx2IYS

— Maanasa Kona (@MaanasaKona) June 22, 2018

Here's the press release and table:

Health Insurance Enrollment in NJ Individual Market Down 10 Percent in First Quarter of 2018

Reduced Enrollment Demonstrates Importance of Policies Aimed at Stabilizing the Market, Increasing Access to Affordable and Quality Coverage

Last week I noted that the New Jersey state legislature, along with new Governor Phil Murphy, has moved quickly to pass and sign into law a number of critical ACA protection bills, to:

  • Reinstate the ACA's individual mandate penalty,
  • Establish a robust reinsurance program to significantly lower insurance premiums for individual market enrollees,
  • Protect people from out-of-network "balance billing", and
  • Cancel out Trump's expansion of "Association Health Plans"

In addition, New Jersey already outlawed "Short-Term Plans" (and "Surprise Billing") before the ACA was passed anyway.

Well, until today, there was some lingering doubt about the first two bills (which are connected...the reinsurance program would be partly funded by the revenue from the state-level mandate penalty), as Gov. Murphy was reportedly kind of iffy about signing them. As I understand it, he's been supportive of both ideas but is concerned about the potential budget hit in case the mandate penalty revenue doesn't raise enough to cover its share of the reinsurance program.

Last month I noted that New Jersey is taking a leading role regarding protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act; the state legislature has passed bills which would:

  • Reinstate the ACA's individual mandate penalty,
  • Establish a robust reinsurance program to significantly lower insurance premiums for individual market enrollees,
  • Protect people from out-of-network "balance billing", and
  • Cancel out Trump's expansion of "Association Health Plans"

(New Jersey actually already had several other "ACA protection" laws on the books in the first place, including protections against short-term plans and "surprise billing".)

In addition, new Governor Phil Murphy had alread proven that he understands and supports the ACA; within days of taking office he had already issued an executive order telling all state agencies to do everything they reasonably can to inform the public about how to enroll during Open Enrollment and so forth.

I've noted before that now that the Republicans in Congress have repealed the ACA's much-hated (but vitally necessary) individual mandate penalty (effective 2019), the odds of it being reinstated at the federal level are virtually zilch. Even if there's a massive blue wave in November and the Democrats are able to retake both the House and Senate, they're extremely unlikely to be willing to face the same type of firestorm/backlash that they did back in 2009-2010 over it.

If you need proof of this, take a look at the "ACA 2.0" bills recently proposed by both the House and Senate Dems. Both versions check a whole bunch of items off of my "If I Ran the Zoo" wish list...but neither one includes restoring (much less increasing) the Individual Mandate penalty at the federal level.

This won't have too much effect until November (aside from more mentions of Special Enrollment Periods, I presume), but this is EXTREMELY welcome news for ACA supporters; 

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 4

WHEREAS, a primary goal of my administration is to ensure that every New Jerseyan has access to affordable health insurance and none of our residents are unable to see a doctor when they are sick; and

WHEREAS, the Affordable Care Act represented a huge step forward in ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey turned down a substantial amount of federal funding when it declined to create a state-based exchange that would have been customized to the needs of New Jersey residents, and given the State greater flexibility in its enrollment period; and

WHEREAS, over 275,000 New Jerseyans currently receive health insurance coverage on the federal marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act; and

(sigh) An anonymous emailer just gave me this heads' up:

New Jersey has no local TV stations. It all comes out of NYC for the most part with the south getting Philly.

Commercials from insurance companies in NY give the enrollment end date at Jan 31. Fidelis Care appears to be the most active at the moment but the real activity will come at the end of next month.

I think many people in NJ will think they have till Jan 31 to enroll.

I do not know if the issue exists between other borders between states with different cutoffs.

This is an excellent point. New York runs their own ACA exchange, NY State of Health...and their 2018 Open Enrollment Period runs all the way through January 31st (although you do have to enroll by Friday in order to have coverage starting on January 1st).

New Jersey, on the other hand, is run through the federal exchange, HealthCare.Gov, and for NJ residents the final deadline for all of 2018 is Friday.

When I plugged in the requested rate hike numbers for New Jersey back in August, they averaged around 8.5% assuming CSR payments would be made, or around 21.6% if they aren't.

The approved rate increases for NJ were just released, and the numbers appear to be pretty close to that, if a bit higher: 9.9% and 22.0% respectively.

Truth be told, I only have the hard numbers for the exchange-based carriers...and even those aren't technically official; they come from this NJ.com article:

TRENTON -- New Jersey residents who bought their own health coverage from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield through the Affordable Care Act could pay an average of 24 percent more next year, according to state-approved rates released on Tuesday.

Horizon is one of three insurance companies in New Jersey participating in the Obamacare marketplace in 2018. But it is the most dominant, insuring 72 percent of the 244,000 individual policy holders this year.

I had already posted a partial look at the New Jersey rate hike situation a couple of weeks ago with a video in which Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress interviewed NJ Congressman Frank Pallone about the situation. Since his comments weren't official and only referred to Horizon Blue Cross, I didn't make it an official part of the Rate Hike spreadsheet, but now I've managed to plug in the remaining carriers and here's how it looks. As expected, with Horizon holding a commanding 70% market share, the statewide average is around 8.5% if CSR payments are made and the mandate is enforced versus 21.6% if CSR payments aren't made and the mandate isn't enforced.

Also, check out Horizon's cover letter explaining the rate hike...they're not screwing around with who to pin the blame on.

 

Thanks to Emily Gee and the Center for American Progress for this:

This isn't a full/official New Jersey rate hike update, as it only refers to one carrier, and rounds things off a bit, but in the video above, if you watch from around 37:30 to 41:00, you'll hear New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone talk about the negative impact that the CSR reimbursement threat/uncertainty/sabotage effect is having on Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield...and since Horizon BCBS happens to hold something like 70% of the New Jersey individual market share (which is confirmed by Pallone in the video), the statewide weighted average rate hike will end up being largely determined by theirs.

The most relevant part:

"So Horizon, which is something like 70% of our market in New Jersey, filed like a 24% increase. And I asked the president (of Horizon) "why are you filing with a 24% increase?" I can't imagine that health insurance costs have gone up that much. And he said "Oh, they haven't, Congressman." I said, "well, what is this?"

Assuming 310,000 people enroll in private exchange policies by the end of January, I estimate around 207,000 of them would be forced off of their private policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal, plus another 532,000 enrolled in the ACA Medicaid expansion program, for a total of 739,000 New Jersey residents kicked to the curb.

Thanks to Louise Norris for providing this report which breaks out the Medicaid expansion numbers by county. It's worth noting that like New York, New Jersey will also see more people lose Medicaid coverage post-ACA repeal than technically signed up "because" of the law because they, too, had previously partly expanded Medicaid via a pre-ACA waiver which has since expired. Unlike New York, however, in New Jersey's case I had already baked the larger number into my estimates anyway, so it hasn't changed anything.

As for the individual market, my standard methodology applies:

Last week I noted that with 41 states accounted for and the 2017 Open Enrollment Period quickly bearing down on everyone, it was time to pull the plug on my 2017 Average Rate Hike project and move on. I had come up with an overall national weighted unsubsidized average rate increase of around 25% for ACA-compliant individual market plans.

However, I also noted that I'd make sure to fill in the approved rates for the remaining 10 states as they came in, for completeness sake...and today, thanks to the HHS Dept. cutting the ribbon on 2017 Window Shopping at HealthCare.Gov, I've also been able to fill in the blanks for five of the remaining states all in one shot (the other five remain elusive).

I have very few details on this one,

The great @katiedjennings reports NJ is ordering Health Republic of NJ to cease plan offerings in 2017. cc: @khemp64 @pauldemko

— Dan Goldberg (@DanCGoldberg) September 12, 2016

@charles_gaba @DanCGoldberg @khemp64 @pauldemko they lost $59M in first 6 months of the year

— Katie Jennings (@katiedjennings) September 13, 2016

Her story is buried behind a firewall at POLITICO Pro, but I do have some crucial info:

Over the past few days I've been doing some serious number-crunching in an attempt to break out the entire individual market between exchange-based, ACA-compliant off-exchange, grandfathered and transitional plans. For the most part, I believe most of my data is pretty close...but there's still some pieces of the puzzle missing here and there.

For New Jersey, my current numbers (as of March 2016) are:

Thanks again to commenter "M E" for finding this Business Insider article in which health insurance startup Oscar Insurance Co. has announced that they're pulling out of the ACA exchange completely in New Jersey, and out of the Dallas market specifically in Texas...while also expanding into San Francisco next year:

According to a release from the company on Tuesday, the firm will no longer offer individual market plans through the Affordable Care Act in Dallas, Texas, and New Jersey.

..."We hope to return to these markets as we carry on with our mission to change healthcare in the US."

The "we hope to return" part suggests that Oscar will continue to be available off the exchange in New Jersey, since completely pulling out of a state means a carrier has to wait at least 5 years before re-entering. So...there's that, anyway.

...Oscar currently covers 7,000 people in Dallas and 26,000 in New Jersey.

As I noted Monday, I believe August 1st was the deadline for every state to submit their 2017 rate filings, meaning that the 14 states missing from my Requested Rate Hike Project are finally available to be plugged into the spreadsheet. I'll also be going back through the other states I've been tracking since as early as April to see which ones require updates due to carriers dropping out, joining in or resubmitting their rate requests.

In 2014, New Jersey's total individual market was estimated at around 261,000 people, including off-exchange, grandfathered and transitional enrollees. Assuming 25% growth, this should be around 325,000 today.

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