Charles Gaba's blog

  • 10/12/15: Updated South Carolina with approved rate average
  • 10/8/15: Added Nebraska (approved rates)
  • 10/06/15: Updated Hawaii, Georgia & Montana w/approved rates; updated North Carolina w/revised requests

I spent most of July and August simply overwriting/updating the original version of this entry, but now that the approved 2016 premium rates are starting to pop up all over (the deadline for approval of exchange policy rates was a few days ago), I figured it was time to start fresh.

Colorado's official QHP selection total as of 2/21/15 was 140,327, and as of the end of April, it was up to 146,506...of which 129,055 were actually effectuated as of 4/30.

While their reports have always been comprehensive, they were also a bit confusing. Thankfully, starting with their June report, they've made the appropriate data points a bit more obvious. While the QHP selection total is still confusing, the effectuated number (which is really more relevant at this point) is the combination of APTC/CSR + non-APTC/CSR enrollees, or 74,583 + 59,617 = 134,200 people as of the end of June.

Thanks to David Snow for the heads up!

A couple of weeks ago, both Louise Norris and I crunched the South Carolina data and came up with different estimates of the weighted average requested 2016 rate hikes for the ACA-compliant individual market. She used a worst-case scenario and estimated it to be around 16.8%; I took a slightly more optimistic approach and came up with 15.2%.

Well, the South Carolina Dept. of Insurance just released their approved 2016 rates, and they ended up pretty much splitting the difference.

As you can see, even though there are only 5 carriers operating on the ACA exchange and another 5 offering policies off-exchange only, the overall average is still 15.9% either way:

Ever since I laid into Congressional Republicans on Friday for deliberately sabotaging the funding program for the ACA's CO-OP Risk Corridor program last December, several people have correctly pointed out that, while having federal funds cut for this program cut off was certainly a major factor in at least one of the CO-OPs going under (the Kentucky Health CO-OP), there was a different policy change--made nearly 2 years ago--which may also contributed to their financial woes (and which may have played a role in some of the other 4 CO-OPs which fell apart prior to the risk corridor debacle hitting home a week or so ago).

The Massachusetts Health Connector held their monthly board meeting last week and have released their September dashboard report with a whole mess of demographic data for Baystate-obsessed nerds to revel in.

I've pasted screen shots of every page of the report below, but here's the main takeaways:

  • Effectuated QHPs have reached 179,470 enrollees...a whopping 38.930 higher (28%) than at the end of Open Enrollment.

While the national effectuation number is likely around 3% lower today than it was in March (9.9 million vs. 10.2 million), in Massachusetts it's 45% higher. There's two main reasons for this, both connected to "ConnectorCare", which is unique to Massachusetts. ConnectorCare consists of the same low-end Qualified Health Plans that anyone can purchase (ie, they're still counted as QHPs in the national tally), except that in addition to the federal Advanced Premium Tax Credits (APTC), enrollees in ConnectorCare also receive additional state-based financial assistance, making them even more attractive to enrollees. In addition, however, unlike "normal" APTC or Full Price QHPs, which are limited to the official open enrollment period for most people, ConnectorCare enrollment, like Medicaid/CHIP, is open year round. That makes a dramatic difference, as you can see below; the vast bulk of the net QHP enrollment increase since March is thanks to ConnectorCare additions.

  • In addition, MA is the only state I know of which actively reports their attrition numbers--that is, so far this year they've had just 17,246 people drop their QHP policies, meaning a total of 196,716 people have selected a plan and paid at least their first monthly premium.
  • Assuming a 90% payment rate (confirmed for Massachusetts back in April), this also suggests that the cumulative QHP selection total should be roughly 218,000 people to date, which is only significant to me and The Graph.

But wait, there's more! Look below and you'll see a whole mess of pie charts, bar charts and line charts, breaking out everything from Metal Level selections and Market Share by Provider to SHOP enrollments (5,562 lives covered as of October 1st) and even Dental Plans!

Data nerds, go nuts!!

This may seem like common knowledge now, but in 2014, it felt like I was one of the only people who recognized that there were millions of people enrolling in ACA-compliant policies off of the ACA exchanges, directly via the insurance carriers themselves. My best estimate for 2014 was that in addition to the 7 million or so exchange-based individual market enrollees, there were another roughly 8 million people who enrolled off-exchange (although several million of those were in non-ACA compliant policies).

Just hours ago I posted a lengthy screed about the first clear victim of the Great Risk Corridor Debacle of 2015. In that case, both the culprit (the GOP's insistence on cutting off government funding guarantees for the risk corridor program) as well as the victim (the Kentucky Health CO-OP) both originated with the Affordable Care Act itself.

This time around, however, the victim (well, in addition to its current enrollees) is a private company, albeit a not-for-profit one: WINhealth Partners:

We’re a not-for-profit managed care company founded by professionals, and we’re changing the way that healthcare works for you – because we believe your insurance should help you to be at your best in life.

It occurs to me that I haven't really written a lot about the ACA's CO-OP organizations, which were created by the Affordable Care Act in order to help spur competition and keep prices down. Here's a basic summary of what the CO-OPs are about from the Commonwealth Fund:

The nonprofit, consumer-governed health plans were included in the law as an alternative to the so-called public plan option. Modeled on successful health insurance cooperatives such as Group Health Cooperative in Washington, the CO-OPs were designed to broaden the coverage options available to consumers, inject competition into highly concentrated health insurance markets and provide more affordable, consumer-focused alternatives to traditional insurance companies.

To help these new plans find footing, the health law offered low-interest loans that were tied to a number of requirements designed to differentiate CO-OPs from traditional insurers (which were barred from the program). Recipients were required to:

Thanks to Zachary Tracer for the heads up.

The other day I wrote a general overview of the ACA "Risk Corridor" debacle.

The short version is that there were 3 funding programs put in place under the Affordable Care Act designed specifically to help smooth the waters and keep insurance carriers afloat for the first few years until they got past the bumpy transition period. One of these was called the "Risk Corridor" program. Basically, the carriers who lose their shirts the first 3 years were supposed to have at least a portion of their losses covered to tide them over; call it "training wheels" for the insurance industry. The funding was supposed to come partially from the other insurance companies which did better than expected...but any shortfall was supposed to be covered by the federal government, with the caveat that any surplus paid to the government stayed there as a type of profit.

In my most recent Maryland exchange update, I noted that after months of ACA exchange enrollments increasing during the off-season (if slowly), net policy cancellations finally started to outweight off-season additions starting in August:

As of Aug. 13th, 606,226 Marylanders have enrolled in quality, affordable health coverage for 2015 through Maryland’s state-based insurance marketplace.

That includes 123,673 people enrolled in private Qualified Health Plans (QHP) and 482,553 people enrolled in Medicaid through the marketplace since open enrollment for the year began on Nov. 15, 2014. Nearly 94 percent of all Marylanders who have enrolled through Maryland Health Connection for coverage this year received financial assistance.

Today, the exchange tweeted out a quickie update ahead of the 2016 Open Enrollment period:

A couple of days ago I noted that Covered California is adding a very good feature this year: They're opening up 2016 enrollment nearly 3 weeks early...for those who are already currently enrolled. Starting this monday, Oct. 12, current enrollees will be able to renew or switch to a different CoveredCA plan, 19 days ahead of he official Nov. 1st Open Enrollment launch.

Today I discovered that at least one other state-based exchange (Kynect, in Kentucky) is doing this as well...sort of:

I clicked through and saw this listed under the Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How do I enroll in kynect?
Simply visit or talk to your insurance agent. If your insurance plan is up for renewal, you may be eligible to enroll through kynect today. You can also call Customer Service at 1-855-4kynect (459-6328).

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a "new" Scary Headline® story from the AP about cybersecurity at the federal ACA exchange, HealthCare.Gov.

My entry was about how the AP utterly misrepresentated the actual security situation a year ago, then compounded their mistake (I'll be gracious and assume it was done out of ignorance, not malice) a year later in their follow-up story. As for the actual security situation, the short version was:

Just a couple of quick social media notes:

  • Those who follow me on Twitter know that I almost always include 3 hashtags with every Tweet: #ACASignups, #ACA and #Obamacare. During the 2016 Open Enrollment Period, I'll be changing the #Obamacare tag to simply #OE3, not out of any disrespect towards the President but simply because of the character limit.
  • Twitter followers also know that my personal feed (@charles_gaba) also includes all sorts of non-ACA-related stuff. If you want to keep up with my ACA-specific stuff but don't care for my unrelated political rantings, just follow the official @ACASignups Twitter account instead!
  • Finally, don't forget you can also follow updates on Facebook!

That is all.

I planned on posting about this earlier today, but had to deal with a crisis for one of my Day Job clients (yes, I still have one believe it or not).

Early this afternoon, Covered California, the largest state-based ACA exchange in the country, held a conference call accompanied with a lengthy press release and a very nice slideshow full of pie charts and data points, giving a comprehensive overview of where things stand in the Golden State.

With 47 states plus DC under my belt, at this point I'd say I have a pretty good feel for the overall national premium rate increase scene; it still looks like around 12-14% nationally on average, ranging from a low of under a 1% average hike in Maine and Indiana to a high of 40% or so in Alaska and Minnesota.

However, I admit it would be nice, as a point of personal pride, if I could squeeze in the last three states: Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Fortunately, Louise Norris has brought to my attention the fact that the Nebraska Dept. of Insurance has issued the final approved rate changes for the individual market: