Washington State announces certified plans & kinda, sorta posts *approved* rate hikes again...

A week or so ago, the Washington Insurance Commissioner announced that the weighted average rate hike for 46 plans certified by the state insurance dept. regulators is 13.1%. However, there was a major caveat: There were another 52 plans which still had to be certified by the board. Without knowing the average rate hike for the other half of the plans, there's no way of knowing what the final approved average increase will be.

In addition, I also don't know what the relative market share of any of the plans (certified vs. uncertified) is, so there's no way of weighting the average across the full market. For all I know, 90% of enrollees might be among the first 46 (in which case any variances mong the other 52 plans would barely move the needle). Alternately, 90% could be among the missing 52 plans, or anywhere in between.

WIth that in mind, here's a press release from the WA exchange yesterday:

Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board Issues Final Certifications for Health and Dental Plans Offered in 2017

...The Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board today released their final certifications for Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) and Qualified Dental Plans (QDPs) to be offered throughWashington Healthplanfinder during the upcoming open enrollment period scheduled for Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2017.

Following approval by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC), the Exchange Board has certified 98 QHPs and 12 QDPs to be available for coverage in 2017. The Board certified insurance carriers Regence BlueShield and BridgeSpan to offer a combined 52 QHPs through Washington Healthplanfinder during a special Board meeting held today. Those certifications are in addition to the 46 QHPs that were certified by the Board last week.

OK, so it's 13.1% for 46 plans, plus an unknown average hike for the other 52 from Regence & BridgeSpan specifically. More below.

...“We’re pleased to have finalized 2017 coverage options that will be available to customers for January 1, 2017 coverage,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “The choice of options continue to demonstrate the viability of our state health insurance marketplace and provide Washingtonians with the only place they may compare plan rates, view changes, and receive financial help so that they can decide what is best for them.”

Price changes for the newly certified health plans include an average premium increase of less than four percent for silver-level plans, which represent nearly half of the QHPs offered in 2017. During 2016 open enrollment, more than 56 percent of all QHP customers enrolled in a silver-level plan.

This makes it sound like the average rate increase for around half of enrollees will be under 4%, but there's more to the story.

...Certifications were also issued for five family dental plans – the first to be offered through Washington Healthplanfinder. Beginning Nov. 1, adults, adults and children, or children only will have the option of signing up for plans offered by Dentegra, Dental Health Services, and Delta Dental that provide access to affordable dental care.

I admit that I'm among the many health insurance/ACA writers who hasn't given the dental plan market nearly enough attention.

...The following insurance carriers were approved to sell health and dental plans throughWashington Healthplanfinder:

  • BridgeSpan
  • Community Health Plan of Washington
  • Coordinated Care Corporation
  • Dentegra
  • Dental Health Services
  • Delta Dental
  • Group Health Cooperative
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Lifewise Health Plan of Washington
  • Molina Healthcare of Washington
  • Premera Blue Cross
  • Regence BlueShield

The actual certification packet PDF is also worth taking a look at...but doesn't fill in the gaps above.

Let's assume that the 46 plans certified last week also hold around half of the total enrollees (46/98 = 49%).

Let's further assume that the Silver plan distribution is spread fairly evenly across all of the carriers--that is, that 56% of the Regence/BridgeSpan enrollees are enrolled in Silver plans.

If so, that means that (51% x 56% = 28.6% of all current WA exchange enrollees are enrolled in Silver plans via Regence/BridgeSpan...which in turn are averaging "less than 4%".

Assuming "less than 4%" = 3.9%, that makes the overall weighted average something like:

  • 49% x 13.1% = 0.06419
  • 28.6% x 3.9% = 0.011154
  • 0.075344 = 7.5% average hike plus whatever the average is for the remaining 22.4% of enrollees is.

This is just a very rough guesstimate, however; there are too many assumptions to swap out my "approved hike" average of 13.1% yet.