2020 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

Charles Gaba's blog

 

(h/t @CarenaAK via Twitter)

The hits just keep on coming for CMS Administrator Seema Verma:

Medicare chief asked taxpayers to cover stolen jewelry

A top Trump health appointee sought to have taxpayers reimburse her for the costs of jewelry, clothing and other possessions, including a $5,900 Ivanka Trump-brand pendant, that were stolen while in her luggage during a work-related trip, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

Seema Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, filed a $47,000 claim for lost property on Aug. 20, 2018, after her bags were stolen while she was giving a speech in San Francisco the prior month. The property was not insured, Verma wrote in her filing to the Health and Human Services department.

The federal health department ultimately reimbursed Verma $2,852.40 for her claim, a CMS spokesperson said.

via email from the House Energy & Commerce Committee:

Bipartisan House and Senate Committee Leaders Announce Agreement on Legislation to Lower Health Care Costs

  • Legislation ends surprise medical bills; funds Community Health Centers for five years; increases the purchasing age of tobacco to 21; lowers prescription drug and other medical costs by requiring more transparency and competition

WASHINGTON, December 8, 2019 — Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) along with Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today announced they have reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to lower what Americans pay out of pocket for their health care.

Whether it actually makes it through both the House and Senate and gets signed by Trump or not, just getting this type of announcement itself is pretty unheard of these days for any significant policy.

As noted a few days ago, House Democrats have officially scheduled a floor vote on H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Act of 2019, for next week:

Pelosi, Hoyer, Pallone, Neal and Scott Joint Statement Announcing Floor Vote on H.R. 3

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal and Education & Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott released the following joint statement:

“Next week, the House of Representatives will pass the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

“We have now received enough guidance from CBO to bring the Lower Drug Costs Now Act to the Floor and to reinvest its savings in one of the most transformational improvements to Medicare since its creation.

via the Washington Health Benefit Exchange:

Washington Health Benefit Exchange Issues Statement on Approval of Cascade Care Plan Designs

Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) board approved the design for Cascade Care plans today. Cascade Care plans are qualified health plans that have a standard health benefit design across health insurance carriers making it easier to understand and offer more value for Washington Healthplanfinder consumers.

Today, Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, and Ron Sims, the Exchange’s Board Chair, issued the following statement regarding the approval of the designs as a step in implementing Senate Bill 5526 (Cascade Care):

via HealthSource RI:

The clock is ticking on picking the best health insurance plan for 2020. High quality and affordable health coverage is available through HealthSource RI, and Rhode Islanders have until December 23rd to purchase coverage that starts on January 1st.
 
Getting health insurance is even more important this year because coverage is now required in the state of Rhode Island. As of January 1st, residents who don’t have health insurance will pay a tax penalty when filing for the prior year.

AGAIN: The federal shared responsibility requirement (aka the individual mandate penalty) may have been zeroed out by Congressional Republicans, but in addition to the District of Columbia, four states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Rhode Island) have reinstated it at the state level.

A few weeks ago, I did a write-up about a concerning development at HealthCare.Gov: The growing push under the Trump Administration to not only partner with 3rd-party web brokers (which has been done since the first days of the ACA under the Obama Administration), but to actively promote those third-party brokers over HealthCare.Gov itself.

In and of itself, this wouldn't be too problematic as long as people are still ultimately enrolling in fully ACA-compliant policies and receiving ACA subsidies if they're eligible for them. Hell, one of these 3rd-party authorized web brokers even has a banner ad at the top of my website...which I only allow because this particular one only sells on-exchange ACA-compliant policies.

Your Health Idaho doesn't post presse release very often, but when they do it's usually helpful info:

Open Enrollment for Idaho is coming to a close, don’t miss out on enrolling in an affordable health insurance plan! You can set up an account, shop for plans, and apply for coverage online. Visit Apply and Enroll for more information. No computer? No problem. To apply over the phone or to request a paper application, call Your Health Idaho at 1-855-944-3246.

We’re Here to Help!

Your Health Idaho will have extended hours throughout December*:

  • December 1 – 6: 7am – 7pm
  • December 9 – 13: 7am – 8pm
  • December 14 (Saturday): 10am – 4pm
  • December 16 – 20: 7am – 8pm
  • December 21 (Saturday): 10am – 4pm

This is the perfect opportunity for those Idahoans who were unable to reach us during the busy work week.
*All times are in Mountain Time Zone.

What is an Open Enrollment Period?

This just in from MNsure, the Minnesota ACA exchange:

All private health plans offered on the MNsure marketplace limit the out-of-pocket cost to enrollees for insulin prescriptions in 2020. Each of MNsure's four insurers are offering either low-cost or free insulin benefits, meaning consumers purchasing plans through MNsure will pay no more than 25 dollars per month for insulin.

"The rising cost of insulin has put a huge financial burden on many families across Minnesota," said Nate Clark, MNsure CEO. "It’s so important to have access to insulin at an affordable price. We encourage all those looking for prescription insulin coverage to check out the plan options at MNsure.org."

Just another quick update from AccessHealthCT:

This year, their press release page states the following:

Stats as of December 6, 2019:

Qualified Health Plans (QHP):

  • Net Total QHP Enrollment: 99,322
  • 2020 OE Acquisition Summary: 10,281

Overall Volume

  • Unique Website Visitors: 128,886
  • Calls Handled: 119,089

Medicaid: Completed applications/redeterminations processed through the integrated eligibility system: 29,692

I'm assuming this means that they've joined several other state exchanges and are front-loading their auto-renewals of everyone currently enrolled. I'm further assuming that of those 99,322 people, 10,281 of them are new enrollees. If so, that means they'll have to enroll just 11,744 more people over the next four weeks to beat last year's 111,066 total.

Connect for Health Colorado reported 24,000 QHP selections as of 11/15. Now they're out with another update:

Connect for Health Colorado® Urges Residents to Shop by December 15 for January Coverage

Nearly 42,000 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado’s Marketplace between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. Approximately 70 percent of applicants qualify for financial help in the first month of the Open Enrollment period. Residents must sign up for a plan by Dec. 15, 2019 to have coverage in place by Jan. 1, 2020, however, Open Enrollment runs through Jan. 15, 2020. 

Coloradans can sign up for a Marketplace plan online, over the phone or in person with a certified enrollment expert. Connect for Health Colorado has 23 enrollment centers to provide residents with walk-in help at different times throughout the week. Residents can also schedule an appointment. 

I have a different California-specific post coming later this afternoon, but I stumbled across a mildly interesting bit of data and figured this would be a good time to share it while I wait to be able to post that one.

As you may recall, while the ACA required that most individual market major medical healthcare policies sold have to comply with full ACA regulations, there were some exceptions to this. The biggest exception made was for major medical plans which had been continuously enrolled in since before the ACA was signed into law in March 2010.

These plans were grandfathered in, and so are appropriately called "Grandfathered Plans", and applied to perhaps 5 million people or so back in 2014, when ACA-compliance became mandatory for newly-sold policies.

Don't ask me why, but for some reason, in the midst of my pushing hard for the major ACA 2.0 bills to be passed (H.R. 1868 and H.R. 1884), I've written nary a word about another important (and actually more impactful if it were to be passed and signed into law) bill: H.R.3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019:

This bill establishes several programs and requirements relating to the prices of prescription drugs.

This Just In via the Washington HealthPlanFinder:

Washington Healthplanfinder Urges Customers to Act Fast for Jan. 1 Coverage

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today is warning customers without 2020 coverage that Sunday, Dec. 15 at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline to sign up for health and dental plans through Washington Healthplanfinder that begin on Jan. 1.

Since the open enrollment period began, more than 187,000 Washingtonians have already selected 2020 Qualified Health Plans (QHP) using Washington Healthplanfinder, including around 15,000 residents who signed up for health coverage over the past week. With traffic to wahealthplanfinder.org expected to continue rising, customers needing 2020 coverage are directed to submit an application and lock in their plan selection immediately to avoid any potential delays.

 

Me, two day ago:

I'm just putting this out there today because I know there's gonna be a bunch of eye-rolling stories completely misunderstanding the data later on this week.

Last Wednesday, the Week 4 HealthCare.Gov Snapshot Enrollment Report came out and showed a "mysterious" 41% increase in ACA exchange enrollments for the week vs. last year...jumping from 500,437 QHP selections to 703,556 QHP selections for the corresponding week this year.

This Wednesday, the Week 5 snapshot report will come out and will almost certainly show a "mysterious" large drop in ACA exchange enrollments vs. last year...from 772,250 down to perhaps 500,000 or so.

Just days after a lawsuit was filed challenging Michigan's impending Medicaid expansion work requirements, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to legislative Republicans urging them to stop throwing good money after bad on a policy which is pretty much doomed to failure anyway:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said delaying implementation of work requirements for enrollees in Michigan's Medicaid expansion program would prevent the state from potentially wasting at least $1 million.

The Democrat issued a special message to legislative leaders Tuesday, a day after saying the Republican-controlled Legislature should pause the rules taking effect in January.

Whitmer said the state has spent $28 million to implement the workforce engagement requirements and is on track to spend an additional $40 million this fiscal year — an unnecessary expense if a federal judge blocks the rules.

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