Charles Gaba's blog

After New York and Washington State, Maryland is the 3rd state to release their final official OE4 enrollment numbers:

NEARLY 158,000 MARYLANDERS ENROLLED IN HEALTH COVERAGE FOR 2017 THROUGH THE STATE MARKETPLACE

INCLUDING MEDICAID, 501,000 HAVE ENROLLED SINCE NOV. 1

BALTIMORE (Feb. 1, 2017) – A total of 157,637 Marylanders enrolled in private health coverage plans for 2017 by yesterday’s deadline for open enrollment, capped by the largest single-day call volume ever for Maryland Health Connection, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

Including Medicaid enrollments, more than a half-million Marylanders have newly enrolled or renewed in health coverage for 2017 through the state marketplace since Nov. 1 when open enrollment began. Maryland Health Connection now covers 1.1 million in all — one of every six people in Maryland.

Hmmm...I'm honestly not sure what this last number (1.1 million covered by the exchange) refers to...they just said it was 158K QHPs + 343K in Medicaid = 501K total.

Yesterday New York was the first state exchange to report their final OE4 enrollment tally; it was a bit mixed, with QHP selections 29,000 (10.7%) lower than last year...but BHPs increasing by a whopping 286,000 (75.3%) year over year, for a net combined gain of over 256,000 people.

Today, the Washington State exchange chimes in, and their numbers are impressive: Over 225,000 QHP selections.

More than 225,000 people used Washington Healthplanfinder to select Qualified Health Plans – a 13% increase over last year’s total.

The ASPE report for OE3 showed WA's official 2016 tally at 200,691, so 225K would actually only be 12.1% higher, but the press release says it's 13%, so either they're basing it on a slightly lower unofficial 2016 tally, or "over 225K" actually means closer to 226,000.

Oh for the love of God...

GOP Rebrands Obamacare Strategy From 'Repeal' to 'Repair'

Some Republicans in Congress are starting to talk more about trying to “repair” Obamacare, rather than simply calling for "repeal and replace.”

There's good reason for that.

The repair language was discussed by Republicans during their closed-door policy retreat in Philadelphia last week as a better way to brand their strategy. Some of that discussion flowed from views that Republicans may not be headed toward a total replacement, said one conservative House lawmaker who didn't want to be identified.

Using the word repair “captures exactly what the large majority of the American people want,” said Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican consultant and pollster who addressed GOP lawmakers at their retreat.

I'm actually a bit surprised that NY State of Health is the first state exchange out of the gate with final enrollment numbers, but good for them:

Press Release: NY State of Health Announces Enrollment Surges: More Than 3.6 Million New Yorkers Secure Health Coverage

Feb 1, 2017

  • Nearly 50,000 sign up during final two days of Open Enrollment
  • An additional 800,000 New Yorkers enroll through the Marketplace since January 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 1, 2017) -- NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan Marketplace, today announced that more than 3.6 million New Yorkers enrolled in comprehensive health coverage through NY State of Health, a 28 percent increase from 2016.

“New York continues its commitment to bring affordable, comprehensive health coverage to New Yorkers” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “New Yorkers now have access to affordable health insurance coverage, giving hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured individuals economic and healthcare security.”

 

(this is mostly a repost from last week, but there've been some additional developments since then):

Friday, January 20th:

Politically, the big unknown is whether or not Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will get away with trying to pin the blame for this on the Democrats/the law itself. That's why they've been pushing the "Obamacare is already in a death spiral!" claim hard for the past few weeks, even though it quite simply isn't.

...So, if this does end up in a worst-case scenario, Trump's "stop enforcing the mandate altogether!" order here could end up causing that death spiral even if the GOP doesn't technically end up repealing anything legislatively. The carriers would start announcing that they're bailing next year as soon as this spring (remember, the first paperwork for 2018 exchange participation has to be filed in April or May), and McConnell/Ryan would simply say, "See?? We told you it was collapsing all by itself! We didn't touch nuthin'!!"

I've stated many times over the past few weeks that between the GOP actively starting the legislative repeal process with preliminary votes, Trump actually taking office, his executive order within hours of doing so instructing the HHS Dept. to actively sabotage implementation of the ACA, and the last-minute yanking of TV advertising for the final few days of Open Enrollment that there's simply no way of making a solid prediction about what the final enrollment tally will end up being.

However, based on previous yearly patterns and spot-checks of HealthCare.Gov and the buzz from some of the state exchanges earlier today, I'm still gonna take a shot: I expect the final QHP selection tally to come in...pretty damned close to last year's 12.7 million, actually.

Officially, I'm giving it a range of anywhere between 12.4 - 13.0 million, with around 9.5 - 10.0 million of that coming via the federal exchange (which covers 39 states this year, including Kentucky) and the remaining 3 million or so being courtesy of the 12 remaining state-based exchanges.

Now that Minnesota, California and especially HealthCare.Gov (with Trump's blessing???) have issued overtime/extension periods of one type or another, this isn't particularly surprising to read, but Connect for Health Colorado is joining the Overtime Bandwagon as well:

Connect for Health Colorado® Extends Enrollment Deadline in Response to Surge in Sign-ups
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2017

DENVER — Connect for Health Colorado® today announced it is giving consumers who attempt to enroll by the Jan. 31 deadline three more days to complete their enrollment.

Individuals who began the enrollment process by midnight Tuesday will have until 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, to choose a health insurance plan that will be in effect March 1, 2017. Friday will be the last day to purchase coverage this year, except for customers who experience a qualifying life change event, such as marriage, divorce, having a child, losing your employer-sponsored insurance, or moving to Colorado.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

I've received confirmation from CMS that this "in line by midnight" grace period ONLY applies to those who CALL THE FEDERAL EXCHANGE at 1-800-318-2596​ and LEAVE THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION.

In other words, it does NOT appear to apply to those who are using the website application/enrollment process only; you have to CALL HC.gov and leave your number to qualify.

Every Open Enrollment Period to date, most of the ACA exchanges have ended up offering some sort of deadline extension and/or "in line by midnight" overtime grace period to allow people who started the enrollment process by the deadline additional time to wrap up their paperwork and complete the process.

Each year, this overtime period has shrunk:

First Minnesota's ACA exchange, MNsure, announced an 8-Day "don't call it an extension!" Special Enrollment Period mainly targeted at providing a 25% premium discount for those who don't qualify for the normal federal APTC/CSR financial assistance.

Now, Covered California has announced their own 4-day "Overtime" period, although this is more of the standard "waiting in line" variety:

Covered California Gives Consumers More Time to ‘Cross the Finish Line’ as It Prepares for Surge of Enrollment

  • Consumers must begin the application process by the end of Jan. 31 and complete their enrollment by the end of Feb. 4.
  • Thousands of Certified Insurance Agents and Community Enrollment Partners are ready to provide free and confidential in-person assistance.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced it is giving consumers who attempt to enroll by the Jan. 31 deadline four more days to complete their enrollment.

I'm typing this at 9:40am on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017.

The 2017 Open Enrollment Period ends at Midnight tonight (I'm assuming that's Eastern time).

That means you still have just over 14 hours to enroll for a Qualified Health Plan for the rest of 2017. If you enroll today (and pay your first month's premium), your policy will go into effect starting March 1st, and as long as you keep paying your premiums, should remain in effect until December 31st.

Many people are understandably concerned or outright scared about what will happen to their coverage given the insanity swirling around the Trump Administration, the Republicans in the House and Senate actively taking steps to repeal the ACA and so forth.

Now, I've already said many times that 2018 coverage options are likely to be a complete disaster thanks to the massive uncertainty and sabotage being deliberately created by both Donald Trump and the GOP. For the current year, 2017, it's a different story.

So, here's what you need to know:

From a last-minute press release:

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is alerting customers that tomorrow, Jan. 31 is the deadline to sign up for 2017 health and dental coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.

Individuals and families have until 11:59 p.m. tomorrow to select a plan that is good for the remainder of the year. Residents who fail to secure coverage by the deadline could be required to wait until the following year to sign up for health and dental coverage.

 

Last week, Congressional Republicans held a closed-door meeting to try and figure out how the hell they're going to replace the ACA (also known as "Obamacare" donchaknow?).

Amusingly, someone secretly recorded the meeting and anonymously sent it to the Washington Post.

The recordings confvirmed what anyone who's been paying even the slightest bit of attention over the past seven years suspected all along:

They got bupkis:

This may seem a little silly, but given the upcoming Open Enrollment deadline, the did-they-or-didn't-they confusion regarding the Trump administration's attempt to pull the final TV commercial/social media/phone/email notifications and the general insanity going on right now, I figured it might be helpful to provide direct links to the various ACA (Obamacare) websites for people to actually sign up for 2017 coverage.

Remember, regardless of how much the GOP-held Congress screws things up for 2018, signing up for a Qualified Health Policy (QHP) via one of these exchange websites by Tuesday, January 31st at Midnight should lock in both your policy and premium rate through the end of 2017.*

With that in mind:

Last week I posted an exclusive story over at healthinsurance.org regarding attempts by the Minnesota Republican-held legislature to sneak in a nasty amendment which, had it passed and been signed into law, would have given insurance carriers the right to offer policies which cover, basically nothing whatsoever.

The story ended on a happy note a few days later, as the massive negative backlash caused the state GOP to yank the amendment from the bill in question just before it went to the final vote. Awesome!!

However, I never really explained exactly what bill the pulled amendment was attached to in the first place. I should have written up a full entry on this, but have been swamped all week due to the political insanity and rapidly-changing situation on everything, so here's the basics:

New Mexico is one of five states (also including Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii and Kentucky) which technically operate their own state-based ACA exchange, but utilize HealthCare.Gov as their website enrollment platform. As such, their enrollment numbers are usually only released along with the other three dozen states on the federal exchange.

However, once in awhile they post the enrollment numbers themselves; today is such a day:

@charles_gaba NMHIX: 52,006 total signups - almost as much as last year. Still anticipating a surge as NMHIX continues ads and outreach.

— Colin (@colinb1123) January 27, 2017

The breakout here is 36,579 renewals + 15,427 new enrollees, or a 70/30 split.

Last year, New Mexico's total came in at 54,865 QHP selections, so they've hit 95% of that so far.

My original target for New Mexico for this year was 60,000, though I've knocked this down to 57,000 more recently. They're at around 91% of that so far, with less than a week to go. They'll have to add another 5,000 people in the final surge, which seems unlikely, but who knows?

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