Charles Gaba's blog

In nearly every state, the official "enrollment number" used in the HHS Dept's ASPE reports has been the number of QHP selections completed...whether or not the enrollee actually pays their first monthly premium. Naturally, this led to a lot of fuss and bother about "How many have PAID???" last year (and this year as well, though to a lesser extent). In the end, the answer in 2014 turned out to be roughly 88%, with an additional 4% or so gradually dropping their policies over the course of the year and another 5% dropping theirs once the 2015 season opened up. In 2015, so far it looks like the 1st-month-paid percent is a bit higher, more like 90%.

Most news outlets mushed the two figures (non-payments and attrition) together, but I keep them separate, and Washington State is one reason why. Unlike most states, the Washington ACA exchange only reports their exchange policies after the first monthly premium has been paid. As a result, while their official numbers seemed a bit weak back in February (160,732 vs. their stated goal of 230,000), the silver lining is that it was also a "cleaner" figure; I didn't have to lop off 10% of the total, since WA "pre-purged" it for me.

Spotlight here is on Alabama in my continuing close look at how many low income ACA private plan buyers accessed Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) subsidies by buying silver plans. (Yesterday, HHS released detailed county-level data about buyers of private plans on healthcare.gov, the federal exchange, enabling a close look at state stats.)

CSR is available to buyers with household incomes below 251% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and strongest for buyers under 201% FPL. It is available only with silver plans, the second-cheapest of four metal levels available on ACA exchanges -- a fact that's less than obvious to the average shopper, Buyers under 201% FPL are leaving a really strong benefit on the table if they don't buy silver plans (see the note at bottom for more detail). I consider the percentage of buyers under 201% FPL who select silver an important measure of how well the exchange is functioning in a given state. (Those in the 201-250% FPL range are likelier to have good cause to forego the relatively negligible CSR provided at that level.)

Nearly 2 months ago, I posted about Connecticut's insurance policy rate change requests from the 9 companies which plan on offering individual healthcare policies either on or off the ACA exchange, Access Health CT. The takeaway at the time was that, when weighted for the relative market share of each company, it looked like a statewide average requested rate increase of 7.7%, which isn't bad at all given the massive hikes being tossed around in some other states:

None of these have actually been approved yet, mind you...and in fact, just today it was announced that the CT Insurance Dept. will be holding public hearings to discuss the rate requests by three of the companies above: Anthem, ConnectiCare and Golden Rule.

Even before that happens, however, there's been some shifting: The first two companies, Anthem and ConnectiCare, have put in revisions to their earlier requests:

OK, this is kind of amusing. Over at right-wing nutbag-conspiracy-theory-repository/occasional-real-news site Breitbart.com, there's an attack piece hyping up the expected 2016 individual insurance market rate increases, based on various recent articles such as Robert Pear's piece over at the New York Times last Friday, which I talked about this morning.

Needless to say, being Breitbart, they lay on the "OMG!! SKY IS FALLING!! MASSIVE RATE HIKES!!" stuff pretty thick, and as I've noted repeatedly, in some cases that may very well be true. I didn't bother reading most of it since I already know what it says.

However, there's one rather curious passage which did catch my eye:

Regulators for Covered California, the largest Obamacare exchange with 1.4 million members, have been mum on just how big their premium rate increase will be. But with the exchange already expected to lose $78 billion in the state fiscal year that began July 1, there is no state money for extra subsidies.

As I noted at the end of April, after climbing at a furious pace every week for months on end, Michigan's implementation of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion provision (aka "Healthy Michigan") plateaued at around 600,000 enrollees back in February, and then bobbled around the 600K level for several weeks straight. As I noted at the time, I'm still checking this figure weekly, but it has never deviated far from that number--sometimes a bit higher, sometimes lower.

As of June 30th, it stood at 606,779. 600K seems to be the level that ACA Medicaid expansion can be expected to stay at for the forseeable future.

Louise Norris has provided some valuable information about 2016 individual market rate change requests in her home state of Colorado:

For 2015, Colorado HealthOP cut premiums aggressively, and ended up with the lowest-cost plans in eight of the state’s nine rating areas.  Unsurprisingly, that resulted in the CO-OP garnering the highest market share in the exchange during the 2015 open enrollment period, with nearly 40% of exchange enrollees selecting Colorado HealthOP coverage (among our own clients, Colorado HealthOP was even more popular, including among those who selected off-exchange coverage).

...In 2015, Colorado HealthOP got almost 40% of the exchange’s market share, and Kaiser was a close second with 35%; the two non-profits accounted for three-quarters of all the private plan enrollees in Connect for Health Colorado this year.

The last official enrollment update for Rhode Island was 31,513 people as of 2/23/15, of which 30,001 had paid their first monthly premium at the time.

On the one hand, that makes it look like an amazing 95% payment rate; however, RI also "pre-purged" unpaid enrollments which missed the payment deadline prior to officially reporting them, so their payment rate actually ended up being more like 91% (ie, 30K out of around 33K total selections).

As of July 3rd, the QHP selection total for RI stood at "over 36,000":

HealthSource RI has enrolled over 36,000 Rhode Islanders in 2015 healthcare coverage to date. Some Rhode Islanders may be eligible for a special enrollment period (outside of open enrollment) during which they can get coverage because of qualifying life-change events (such as a change in family status, loss of insurance, and certain hardships).  More information about who qualifies for a special enrollment period is available at HealthSourceRI.com.

I've had no fewer than a dozen different people call my attention to a story in the New York Times last Friday by Robert Pear which lays out the dramatic 2016 rate increase requests from various insurance companies across multiple states:

Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.

(sigh) Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the risk pool...

Now that the dumbest lawsuit ever to make it to the United States Supreme Court has been kicked to the curb, you might think that it's smooth sailing for the Affordable Care Act, at least legislatively-speaking. You would, of course, be wrong:

The Obama administration and House Republicans are clashing over the healthcare law in court, with the Justice Department blasting a GOP lawsuit as "unprecedented."

House Republicans are suing President Obama over what they call executive overreach, saying Obama is unconstitutionally spending money on an ObamaCare program Congress declined to appropriate money for.

The Obama administration counters it does not need an appropriation because the funds were made permanent and mandatory by the Affordable Care Act. The funds in question are for “cost-sharing reductions” that help insurers lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income people.

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