2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

Charles Gaba's blog

As far as I can tell, even the amazing Louise Norris hasn't caught this one yet (and it's a month old, too!). If I'm wrong and she has done a write-up on it, of course, I'll eat my words:

Medicaid for all

Democratic [Nevada] Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle has introduced a bill, AB374, to open up the state’s Medicaid program to anyone, regardless of their income level.

Individuals would be able to purchase coverage through Medicaid on the healthcare exchange for an annual premium set at 150 percent of the median expenditure paid on behalf of Medicaid enrollees in the preceding fiscal year. Though none of the current federal or state dollars going to fund Medicaid would be used to cover any portion of the new enrollees, they would still be entitled to the same benefits provided to other Medicaid recipients.

 

Watch the 4-minute clip above and weep.

If you can't hear it, here's the transcript of California Democratic U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein's response when asked how (not if, mind you...how) she would support moving to a Single Payer healthcare system:

She starts out by making an incredibly tone-deaf and inaccurate statement about single payer:

"If by ‘single payer’ you mean that it’s going to be a complete takeover by the government, of healthcare, then I am not there.

As most people know by now (well, most people in Tennessee, anyway), Humana decided a full two months ago to bail on the entire individual market, across the board--every state, both on and off the exchange, the works. This stung in quite a few counties across 11 different states, but the one which everyone is freaking out about is Tennessee...because there are 16 counties where Humana was the only carrier participating on the ACA exchange. Here's the list of Tennessee counties Humana is available in this year; note that there's an additional 14 counties where there's one other carrier available at the moment.

While I've been embroiled in the sturm und drang at the national level, Louise Norris of healthinsurance.org has been reporting on some important stuff happening at the state level:

HAWAII:

Hawaii no longer has a SHOP exchange; Lawmakers consider bill to preserve the ACA and expand Medicaid to 250% FPL

As of 2017, Hawaii no longer has a SHOP exchange for small businesses. The State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has an FAQ page about this.

...Hawaii’s waiver aligns the ACA with the state’s existing Prepaid Health Care Act. Under the Prepaid Healthcare Act, employees who work at least 20 hours a week have to be offered employer-sponsored health insurance, and can’t be asked to pay more than 1.5 percent of their wages for employee-only coverage (as opposed to 9.69 percent under the ACA in 2017). 

 

Exactly one month ago, I asked a rhetorical question:

How High will Initial 2018 Rate Hike Filings Be?

...and then went on to conclude that, given the insane amount of uncertainty and confusion about what Donald Trump, Tom Price and the Congressional GOP in general has in mind for the 2018 insurance market, on top of normal stuff like inflation, an aging population and so on, that there are five likely scenarios:

Now, put yourself in the position of an insurance carrier executive and/or one of their actuaries. The level of uncertainty in the air is mind boggling. You have five choices for your initial filing:

 

Tom Cotton at townhall: still supports repealing ACA but commits to protecting coverage for 300k Arkansans dependent on Medicaid expansion.

— David Ramsey (@ArkDavey) April 17, 2017

(says this is key reason he opposed AHCA, which would have eliminated the Medicaid expansion altogether)

— David Ramsey (@ArkDavey) April 17, 2017

Just so we're clear here:

Well, HHS Secretary Tom Price and CMS Administrator Seema Verma have released the final, official rules for the 2018 Open Enrollment Period. For the most part they're exactly what was originally proposed a couple of months ago, but it's worth reviewing again now that the changes appear to be final. Here's the main ones:

 

(For anyone who's offended by the clip above...go see Blazing Saddles, NOW. h/t to Harold Pollack for the idea,)

In this morning's Plum Line at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent notes the head-scratchingly absurd "ransom demand" that Donald Trump is attempting to make with Congressional Democrats by holding CSR reimbursements hostage:

For all the details, see this piece by Jonathan Cohn; the short version is that, if Trump does this, premiums could skyrocket and insurers could flee the individual markets, causing them to melt down and ultimately pushing millions off coverage. As Cohn notes, Trump is basically “threatening to torpedo insurance for millions of Americans unless Democrats agree to negotiate with him.”

 

Last week, former CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt conveyed a warning to the Trump Administration and the GOP about how critical confirming ongoing Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursements (not just for the rest of 2017, but continuing into 2018) is, by paraphrasing multiple anonymous sources within the health insurance industry.

On Monday, it looked as though the Trump admin was finally providing some reassurance on the CSR issue; as Robert Pear reported in the New York Times:

The Trump administration says it is willing to continue paying subsidies to health insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act even though House Republicans say the payments are illegal because Congress never authorized them.

The statement sends a small but potentially significant signal to insurers, encouraging them to stay in the market.

Wow. If my estimates are accurate, this strikes me as being pretty significant.

I'm in the middle of my latest project, recompiling the Center for American Progress estimates of how many people have pre-existing conditions in every Congressional District nationally.

In additon to color-coding their data by the political party of each District's Representative, I'm also adding my own spin on the data: Estimates of how many people currently enrolled in the individual market suffer from "pre-existing conditions" which would likely mean them either being denied coverage altogether if the ACA's Guaranteed Issue, Essential Health Benefits and Community Rating provisions were to be stripped (Alternately, these people would charged massively higher rates to the point of likely not being able to afford the policy).

Last fall, when the insurance carriers were jacking up their rates on the individual market by an (unsubsidized) national weighted average of around 25%, aside from the understandable grumbling about such a dramatic all-at-once increase, the big question was whether that would be enough to stabilize the market going forward, or whether this was just the beginning of an inevitable Death Spiral, etc etc.

Back in December, Standard & Poor's issued an analysis in which they concluded that:

An analysis out Thursday says that health insurers are expected in 2016 "to start reversing" financial losses on their Obamacare business after "hitting bottom" in 2015.

And 2017 "will likely see continued improvement" for those insurers selling individual health plans, "with more insurers getting close to breakeven or better," according to the report by Standard and Poor's Global Ratings.

The report also says big price increases for Obamacare plans in 2017 were likely a "one-time pricing correction."

Ever since I started this venture, one of the most difficult types of data for me to hunt down have been the ever-elusive off-exchange individual market enrollment numbers.

Off exchange data is extremely difficult to come by for several reasons. First, because unlike enrollments via the ACA exchanges, off-exchange enrollment data is a purely private transaction between individuals and private corporation. Yes, publicly traded companies have to provide some level of data in their quarterly & annual reports, but that data usually focuses on the financial side. Yes, they generally do give some info about how many enrollees they have, but they don't always break out the individual market specifically...and when they do, they often don't distinguish between the on and off-exchange numbers. Finally, even when they do break it out into that much detail, you'll be hard pressed to find a carrier who breaks the numbers out by state (unless they only operate in one or two states to begin with).

OK, I was about to go with the more obvious saying: "Sh*t or get off the pot", but I'm trying to avoid blatant profanity in the headlines, at least.

Here's a tweetstorm from fomer director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, Andy Slavitt, from yesterday/continuing through today. He confirms everything I've been sounding the alarm about, especially regarding the CSR payment crisis:

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is why don't more health plans speak up about what a disaster AHCA would be. 1

— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) April 5, 2017

A related question I get asked a lot is why don't health plans speak up more loudly about the impact of govt reneging on CSR payments. 2

— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) April 5, 2017

By tomorrow, I will have asked 10 CEOs that question & will tweet back what they say. 3

— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) April 5, 2017

Hot off the presses:

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that the average premium for a benchmark silver plan in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces would need to increase by an estimated 19 percent for insurers to compensate for lost funding if they don’t receive federal payment for ACA cost-sharing subsidies.

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