END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (Connecticut & Maryland)

Time: D H M S

OE5

Protect Our Care is a healthcare advocacy coalition created last December to help fight back against the GOP's attempts to repeal, sabotage and otherwise undermine the Affordable Care Act. This morning they released a report which compiled the approved 2018 individual market rate increases across over two dozen states.

Needless to say, they found that the vast majority of the state insurance regulators and/or carriers themselves are pinning a large chunk (and in some cases, nearly all) of the rate hikes for next year specifically on Trump administration sabotage efforts...primarily uncertainty over CSR payment reimbursements and, to a lesser extent, uncertainty over enforcement of the individual mandate penalty.

*(OK, six, anyway)

Here's something refreshing: U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) giving a floor speech in which he lays out at least a half a dozen different types of deliberate sabotage of the ACA's upcoming 2018 Open Enrollment Period by the Trump Administration to date. Start at 4:30:

On Senate Floor, King Discusses “Sabotage” of the Affordable Care Act
“Why does anyone want to have fewer people with insurance?”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate to address threats to the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare marketplace.

“I’m rising today in sadness, but also in some anger because there’s a lot of talk about the Affordable Care Act collapsing,” said Senator King in his speech. “Mr. President, it is not collapsing – it’s being mugged. It’s being stabbed in the back. It’s being sabotaged, deliberately and consciously by the actions of the Administration. And I want to emphasize – this isn’t about ideology, it’s not about politics… this is about people.

The Maryland Health Connection is now allowing residents to comparison shop for 2018:

View 2018 health insurance plans and prices now!

MarylandHealthConnection.gov has already been loaded with plans and prices for 2018, one month before open enrollment begins. The upcoming open enrollment period will run November 1 - December 15. Health coverage will start on January 1, 2018.

  • How do I get an estimate for 2018 health insurance plans?

You can compare plans and prices through a desktop computer browser or by downloading our mobile app, Enroll MHC, on your iPhone or Android.

Click on “Get Started”- this will take you to the application portal. Next, click “Get an Estimate” on the application site. Finally, enter basic information like your county, age and income to see what coverage and financial help you may qualify for. If you choose to get an estimate, the site will take you through a scenario of what plans and pricing you could receive for 2018. You won’t actually be applying for coverage.

Your Health Idaho just sent out the following press release:

Preview Health and Dental Plans on Your Health Idaho
Shorter Enrollment Period November 1 - December 15

BOISE, Idaho – Today, Idahoans can get a preview on YourHealthIdaho.org of the 299 health and dental insurance plans being offered on the exchange in 2018, and how much help may be available to them.

“Insurance rates will be higher next year, but tax credits will increase to keep pace. Idahoans are often surprised at how much they can save on their health insurance through the exchange. “By going online now, consumers can check to see if they are eligible for tax credits to lower the cost of premiums,” said Pat Kelly, Your Health Idaho executive director. Consumers can take the savings information to comparison shop for the right plan.

 

Over the years I've repeatedly pointed out the importance of NOT simply "autorenewing" your policy. Yes, it's convenient (you don't have to do anything!), but you could be hit with a nasty pricing shock even if nothing has changed at your end (that is, even if your household size, income, etc has stayed the same). Even if your current policy is still available, due to the way APTC subsidies are calculated, you could see your financial assistance drop substantially or increase substantially from year to year...and there may be a better deal available even if there wasn't last year. ACTIVELY SHOP AROUND.

As David Anderson points out, that advice will be especially important this year, due to the CSR Silver Switcharoo/Gold Gap scenario:

Maybe Tom Price is trying to take the heat off of his chartered jet shenanigans, but whatever the reason, this is welcome news:

CMS Announces Special Enrollment Periods for Americans Impacted by Recent Hurricanes
Agency provides special open enrollment periods for 2017 Medicare and Exchange coverage

As a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries and certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange. This important step gives these individuals and families who have been impacted by the hurricanes the opportunity to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and gain access to health coverage on the Exchange immediately if eligible for a special enrollment period.

Earlier today, the Georgia Department of Insurance issued this press release:

INSURANCE DEPARTMENT RELEASES PROPOSED RATES FOR 2018 HEALTHCARE EXCHANGE

Atlanta – Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced today that his office had submitted proposed 2018 health insurance rates to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the federally-facilitated Healthcare Exchange for final federal approval.

“Today my office submitted 2018 Obamacare rates to Washington D.C. for approval,” Hudgens said. “In its fifth year, Obamacare has become even more unaffordable for Georgia’s middle class with potential premium increases up to 57.5 percent. I am disappointed by reports that the latest Obamacare repeal has stalled once again and urge Congress to take action to end this failed health insurance experiment.”

Anyone who's followed me either here at ACASignups.net or over at Twitter over the past eight months knows that no one has been sounding the alarm louder or more frequently than me about both the real and potential sabotage of the ACA being carried out (or at least attempted) by the GOP in general and Donald Trump/Tom Price specifically. Hell, back in July, I even warned of a half-dozen things to look out for, several of which have since already been proven true:

This brings me to the main point of this entry: This is likely just the beginning. I'm not going to say that any or all of the following will happen--it's possible that Trump/Price/Verma will show some level of restraint--but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see any or all of these happen during this fall's Open Enrollment Period (which runs from Nov. 1st - Dec. 15th, by the way):

I've written not one, not two, but three different blog entries in the past 24 hours about Bernie Sanders' just-announced "Medicare for All" proposal...but the reality is, I shouldn't have. Frankly, while it's a discussion/debate that we do need to have, making a big thing about it right this moment is, the more I think about it, terrible timing, because the Affordable Care Act is still in being attacked and at risk in several ways:

  • FIRST: The CSR issue still hasn't been resolved, although at this point it's extremely unlikely that Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander are going to pull a CSR/reinsurance rabbit out of their hats after all. Last week things looked somewhat promising, but this week it appears to have gone off the rails again...and with just 17 days left in the fiscal year (and, I believe, only 14 days before the contracts have to be signed by carriers for 2018 exchange participation), there's almost no time left to get even a minor stabilization bill pushed through.
  • SECOND: On a related note, Bill "so much for the Jimmy Kimmel test!" Cassidy and Lindsey Graham are still trying to cram through their pile-of-garbage Hal Mary Trumpcare bill, which is at least as bad as the GOP's failed AHCA/BCRAP bills were earlier this year and even worse in some ways. Again, there's only 17 days left to pull it off, but remember what happened with AHCA last spring...anything's possible. Here's a summary of the impact of the Cassidy-Graham bill via Andy Slavitt and the Centers for Budget & Policy:

If you look at the top of the website today, you'll notice a couple of new graphics, both relating to the Indivisible ACA Signup Project.

The short version is this:

Donald Trump is cutting ACA outreach, so we've started an Indivisible-based, state-by-state sign-up project group to counter the sabotage.

All you need to do (should you agree) is use social media to update people (on your advocacy and/or personal pages) in your state on key issues and dates/deadlines for sign-ups.

That's pretty much the whole thing in a nutshell, at least so far. It's a closed Facebook Group which you need to request permission to join, but they obviously want the materials to be disseminated as widely as possible (that's kind of the whole point!), so I've agreed to set up a permanent, public link for folks to access them.

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 HC.gov, while the 12 state-based exchanges--which run their own marketing/advertising budgets--saw a 1.8% increase in total enrollment year over year.

Thanks to Louise Norris of healthinsurance.org for saving me the trouble of tracking all of the state exchange deadlines down. It's possible that a few more state-based exchanges (CT, ID, MD, NY & VT) could also extend their open enrollment deadlines beyond the official one on the federal exchange, but here's where things stand as of today (I'll update the graphic as necessary). Feel free to share widely.

Update 9/7/17: Two more state-based exchanges have chimed in: Vermont has clarified that they're sticking with December 15th, 2017; New York issued a press release that they're joining California & DC in extending Open Enrollment all the way through January 31st, 2018. The graphic below has been updated to include the New York extension.

ACA Signups isn't normally known for "big scoop" stories. Yes, I'm often the first one to openly post analysis and/or debunking of information/data/claims which have already been made public, but I'm not usually the first one to actually make the underlying data itself public in the first place.

This is an exception to that rule.

I've recently acquired documentation related to last weeks' shock announcement by the Trump Administration's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that they're slashing the advertising/marketing budget for HealthCare.Gov for the upcoming 2018 Open Enrollment Period by 90%...as well as cutting the in-person outreach program budget by nearly 40%.

I've confirmed the veracity of these documents, and the claims related to them seem to be on the level.

According to my source, these are signed orders instructing the grant awarding officer to distribute $60,000,000 in grants with an effective date and time of August 31st, first thing in the morning.

Lori Lodes used to be Communications Director for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid until last year under President Obama. As such, a big part of her job was administering ACA outreach efforts.

This evening, upon learning of the Trump administration's announcement that they're slashing advertising budget by 90% and outreach/navigation assistance funding by 39%, she was...not pleased. She took to Twitter to get a few things off her chest.

Instead of embedding a bunch of full Tweets, I'm pasting in the actual text of her thread to give the full picture:

Time to put on my "I used to run outreach for Obamacare" hat and talk about the Admin's decision to gut outreach and education.

***note*** This thread is long and barely touches on just how bad the impact of the Admin's decision will be.

First, it's the job of the government - in regs and everything - to educate people about signing up for health care.

Second, slashing navigator funding in a 3 yr cycle from $67m (2016) and $63m (2017) to $33m (2018) will mean that fewer people get covered.

via Sarah Kliff of Vox.com:

Trump is slashing Obamacare’s advertising budget by 90 percent

The White House will also cut the in-person outreach program by $23 million.

The Trump administration plans to deeply cut Obamacare outreach and advertising, officials announced Thursday.

Trump will reduce Obamacare advertising spending 90 percent, from the $100 million that Obama administration spent last year to $10 million this year. It will also cut the budget for the in-person enrollment program by 39 percent.

Administration officials cited “diminishing returns” from outreach activities. In a phone call with reporters, they said that most Americans already know about the Affordable Care Act.

As a reminder, here's what happened back in January, when Trump pulled the plug on advertising for HealthCare.Gov in the final, critical week of the 2017 Open Enrollment Period:

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