2017 Rate Request Early Look: West Virginia
As I noted Monday morning, I believe that 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.
OK, this is irritating. Officially, all of West Virginia's 2017 rate filings have been submitted already, for 4 carriers (plus a fifth, "Freedom Life", which is more of a placeholder than anything). However, the official enrollment numbers for all of them only total around 1,700 people...compared to WV's total individual market size of at least 42,000 (in fact, 33.2K were enrolled in exchange-based policies as of the end of March).
So, where are the other 40,000 or so? Beats me. West Virginia is not among the states in which UnitedHealthcare or Humana is dropping out, and while I'm sure some of them are enrolled in grandfathered (or even transitional) plans, that should only account for a tiny portion of the total. It's also conceivable that Health Plan of the Upper ohio Valley has a whopping 90%+ market share (their enrollment number isn't listed in the filings), but I doubt it.
So...the most likely scenario to me seems to be that a few of those carriers are either replacing certain plans or dropping them entirely, while keeping others with a smaller number of current enrollees. For instance, in 2014, Highmark BCBS had a whopping 31,000 enrollees...yet for 2017 their rate hikes "only affect 188 people"??
With all those caveats in mind, here's where WV stands on the tiny number of enrollees I am able to verify: