2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

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Iowa: Approved 2016 rate hikes look like 22.3% (I think)

This article in the Des Moines Register seems to be fairly clear, but there's some weird discrepancies which make me wonder, so take this with a grain of salt:

Iowa's chief insurance regulator has approved double-digit premium rate increases affecting thousands of Iowans.

The Iowa Insurance Division said Wednesday that Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart has approved increases requested by Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Coventry Health Care and Gundersen Health Insurance.

All of the rate increases are for policyholders holding individual health insurance plans. They will go into effect Jan. 1.

For Wellmark, Iowa's dominant health insurance carrier, Gerhart approved rate increases of 17.6 percent to 28.7 percent on average for different insurance plans. Those rate increases affect about 137,000 Wellmark policyholders.

Wellmark's rate increases are split among pre- and post-Affordable Care Act plans.

Gerhart also approved a 19.8 percent rate increase on average for Coventry, the largest Iowa carrier that sells insurance policies that qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Coventry's rate increase will affect between 35,000 and 47,000 Coventry policyholders, according to the Insurance Division.

The division also approved a 9.4 percent rate increase on average for Gundersen plans, affecting about 60 policyholders.

On the surface, it looks like all of the key numbers are here: 3 companies, 3 enrollment numbers (one of which is a range), 3 rate increases (one of which is also a range), giving this:

For Wellmark BCBS, I split the difference between the 17.6% & 28.7% low/high numbers to get 23.15%. Of course, it's conceivable that 17.6% only refers to 5 people on a Bronze plan while 28.7% refers to the other 136,995 people, but this is the best I can do for now; I'll explain why in a moment.

For Coventry, the article claims it's "between 35K - 47K", but the actual rate filing at RateReview.Healthcare.Gov clearly states "As of February 2015, approximately 47,000 members are enrolled in plans to which the new rates will apply." It's possible that the 35K figure is lower due to the unpaid/attrition rate since February, but the number should actually be higher than 47K since it doesn't include anyone who started their policies on March 1st (which was a larger percentage of the Open Enrollment additions). Based on this, 47K seems to be the correct number.

Gunderson is pretty much irrelevant here since they only have 60 (yes, that's 60, not 600 or 6,000) enrollees anyway.

Going back to Wellmark: The "17.6 - 28.7%" range seems about right, but I can't find the source for the 137,000 affected enrollee figure. When I look up the actual rate filings, I get the following:

  • Wellmark Inc CompleteBlue: 29,975 members, 26.5% requested
  • Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa SimplyBlue FB: 3,046 members, 28.7% requested

Add these up and you get just 33,021 people. Where the other 104K came from I have no idea.

However, the total (184,060) seems about correct, since Iowa's 2014 individual market was roughly 189,000 people, so I leave it at that for the moment.

Assuming this is all accurate and I'm not missing anything, Iowa looks like roughly a 22.3% weighted average rate hike next year.