END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (42 states)

Time: D H M S

Michigan: Nothing new, but my rate request projection confirmed

Today is August 1st. I was hoping that most/all of the states still missing from my 2017 Requested Rate Hike project would finally make their rate filings public as of today, but apparently not (or at least, they aren't live as of 10am).

However, there's one rate request story this A.M....about Michigan, from my local paper, the Detroit Free Press:

Health plans sold on Michigan's insurance exchange could see an average 17.3% increase next year, and if recent history is any guide, state regulators could approve the insurance companies' rate hike requests without many — if any — changes.

The rate increases would mean a financial hit for taxpayers in general and the 345,000 Michiganders who buy their health insurance on the Healthcare.gov exchange, created under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

As it happens, the 17.3% average is nearly identical to the 17.22% average I calculated over a month ago, so that's reassuring...although the "345K" figure once again fails to include the additional 200,000 or so people enrolled in off-exchange individual policies here in the Wolverine State.

Still, the rest of the article provides some very helpful context and insight into why rate requests are higher this year than usual. Much of it I've noted before--the Risk Corridor and Reinsurance programs ending and general underestimates about how expensive new enrollees would be to treat--but there's also this:

"We really try our hardest to keep coverage affordable, but some of the costs are very difficult to manage when you have pharmacy companies going out with 800% increases on the price of their drugs in a year," said Marti Lolli, senior vice president of commercial markets for Grand Rapids-based Priority Health, which is asking for an average 13.9% premium increase for its 2017 individual market plans.

Insurance companies in Michigan have been getting their way in rate cases lately. Last year, the state's Department of Insurance and Financial Services granted every insurer the exact rate increase requested for  individual market plans. Those increases averaged 6.5%.

While the article opens by making it sound like the requests will be approved as is, this isn't a sure thing as noted later:

The especially large rate increase proposals for 2017, however, will spark an extra close look, said Kevin Dyke, the state's top insurance actuary.

"Until this year, Michigan had not had significant double-digit rate increases," Dyke said. "With the magnitude of the changes this year, I think we'll be taking a closer look at the (actuarial) reports to ensure that we're comfortable they've done a thorough job in reviewing, and may even circle back with some actuaries and ask some questions."

Stay tuned...