2020 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

It may seem a bit pointless to keep posting 2015 premium rate changes now that we're only 6 weeks away from the Open Enrollment period anyway (everyone will find out soon enough at this point), but the BS is still flying fast & furious, and the topic seems especially relevant in Minnesota's case since the largest insurer on the 2014 exchange, PreferredOne, has pulled out for Year Two:

Minnesota officials say the average rate for policies sold on the state health insurance exchange next year will go up 4.5 percent.

But, they say Minnesotans will still have access to the lowest average rates in the nation.

The five companies participating in the exchange range from dropping their averages by 10 percent to hiking them more than 17 percent.

They declined to say which companies are raising rates and which are lowering them.

BluePlus joins Blue Cross Blue Shield, HealthPartners, Medica and UCare this year.

Unfortunately, not only is there no way of doing a weighted average here since the current enrollees for the various plans aren't listed, I can't even post which companies are increasing or decreasing their rates. Ah, well.

A few weeks ago, I posted "Get ready for the "OMG!! GAZILLIONS OF POLICIES CANCELLED!!" Freakout" in which I pointed out that while yes, some policies which aren't in compliance with ACA requirements will indeed be discontinued this year, the odds are that the actual number will end up being far fewer than the GOP attacks will claim.

Well, right on schedule, here comes the freakout, and as I expected, the actual number of policies cancelled looks like it'll be missing a few zeroes from the attack headlines:

Thousands of Americans will see their health plans cancelled before the November elections in a development that could boost critics of ObamaCare. 

The Morning Consult, a Washington-based policy publication, reported that nearly 50,000 people will lose their current health coverage in the coming weeks. 

This is simply appalling.

This story is beyond disgusting. The Michigan Republican Party has mailed out a hit piece on John Fisher the Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 61st House district. The mailer asks the recipient to call a phone number to complain about Fisher’s support of the Affordable Care Act. The number they give rings at the bedside of Fisher’s mother, 91-year-old Isabel Marie Kramb, who is in hospice care with congestive heart failure.

Read the whole piece.

Not The Onion:

It finally happened. A new poll shows a majority that want Obamacare repealed. Sort of. And the Weekly Standard rejoices, with the headline "60 percent of voters want Obamacare to be repealed." Maybe they shouldn't rush to uncork that champagne. Because the pollsters here are McLaughlin & Associates. These guys. There's a track record here, reflected most recently in the internal polling they did for for Eric Cantor, showing him leading by 34 points just before he lost by 11. That's a 45 point error.

But so what if they got Cantor, Gabriel Gomez, Bob Dold, Mitt Romney, Richard Mourdock, George Allen and countless others wrong. They've got to get it right sometime, surely. Well, yeah, when you ask a question like this to get 60 percent approval:

Yes, I know I just updated Minnesota 2 days ago, and no, the latest numbers aren't terribly significant increases, but given that MN is the only state which has been consistently updating their data almost daily, with a nice simple breakout between QHPs, Medicaid and MinnesotaCare (a sort of quasi-Medicaid/QHP hybrid allowed for by the ACA), I figured I owed it to them to provide an update which matches their numbers up precisely with Day 365...exactly 1 year to the day since the exchanges launched last October:

enrollment update

latest enrollment numbers 

September 30, 2014

Health Coverage Type Cumulative Enrollments
Medical Assistance 214,071
MinnesotaCare 75,013
Qualified Health Plan (QHP) 55,148
TOTAL 344,232

Do me a quick favor. Watch the 2 brand-new ads below and tell me what the #hashtag they tout brings to mind:

This is something of a miracle. Not only do I find myself quoting Megan McArdle in a favorable way for the 2nd time in 10 days, but her entire article is actually written in a fair, factual, reasonable way:

The Affordable Care Act includes several reinsurance programs that were supposed to help insurers mitigate the risk of mispricing their policies as they ventured into the strange new world of selling insurance on the government exchanges. The administration is leaning hard on these programs to keep insurers in the game, allowing payments out to be higher than payments in, and otherwise substantially reducing the potential losses that insurers can experience when selling exchange policies.

...The GAO responded that the payments are indeed legal, but for them to be legal again in 2015, the appropriations language for 2015 would have to be similar to this year’s language.

VERY nice find from contributor Britt M. This article is from back in April...how have I not heard about this woman before??

Meet the Kentucky Dem Running On, Not From, Obamacare

But even as Obamacare found its sea legs nationally and boasted solid first enrollment numbers in recent weeks [reminder: article is from April], it still came as a surprise to local political watchers when a Kentucky Democratic congressional candidate picked up the ACA baton and used it to bash the GOP incumbent that she is challengingElisabeth Jensen, the presumptive favorite to take on Lexington Congressman Andy Barr this November, emerged last week as the first federal candidate in the region—and one of only a few in the entire country—to broadcast a campaign ad championing health care reform, and attacking her opponent for voting more than a dozen times to repeal it.

The headline is a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course; in spite of Republican "Euro-Socialist" stereotypes, not every country in Europe is "socialist" (and even then, "socialism" has many different flavors/ranges just as "capitalism" does). Still, the irony of this development is rather amusing on the 1-year anniversary of the ACA "Obamacare" health insurance exchanges:

Switzerland rejects single-payer in landslide, keeps its version of Obamacare

Swiss voters resoundingly rejected a proposal to move the country to asingle-payer system on Sunday. Instead, the country will keep its private health insurance system, which looks a whole lot like Obamacare.

Two-thirds of Swiss voters opposed creating a state-run health plan in the national referendum. 

...For a country with a relatively small population (8 million), Switzerland comes up a shocking amount in debates over American health care. That's probably because the Swiss health care system looks pretty similar to the one Obamacare sets up.

OK, this isn't particularly dramatic given that I've already projected the cumulative total QHP figure to hit around 9.9 million by November 15th, but it's still nice to mark the occasion of another milestone being hit. By my best estimates, assuming 9,000 people enrolling in private Qualified Health Plans via the various ACA exchanges every day during the off-season, the grand total should have hit the 9.5 million mark right around midnight last night.

Of those 9.5 million, I estimate that around 8.2 million of them have paid their first month premium already, with another 300K or so who will do so sometime this month. I further estimate that the current number enrolled (after subtracting those who have dropped their coverage after the first month) should be around 7.4 million at the moment:

At the end of August, Illinois' Medicaid expansion program was up to around 452,000 people (including 93,000 transferred over from the existing CountyCare program). As of the end of September, that total was up another 16,000:

The video also coincides with the release Tuesday of new data by Quinn’s administration that showed 468,000 people enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program since last year, more than double original forecasts.

Of course, the larger point of the article in question is that if Democratic Illinois Gov. Quinn's Republican opponent had been calling the shots, he would have told all 468,000 of his fellow Illinoisians (?) to go pound sand:

SPRINGFIELD — Newly surfaced video of Republican Bruce Rauner obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times shows him telling conservative activists in Lake County last year that, as governor, he would have blocked Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2013 expansion of Medicaid.

Deaconblues provides another article with a similarly curious private enrollment update. I just reported that Ohio's 2014 open enrollment tally was apparently several thousand people higher than originally thought. Now it seems that the same is true in Alaska:

When the ACA open enrollment period ended for 2014, approximately 16,000 Alaskans had purchased individual health insurance plans, with nearly 9,000 receiving federal subsidies through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace.

The official HHS report gave Alaska's number as 12,890 as of 4/19...this is 24% higher than that. The first thing which crossed my mind is that the 16K figure might refer to the current gross enrollment figure, which should indeed be about 18% higher than it was in mid-April nationally. However, the fact that the article itself is an extremely anti-ACA screed by the Alaska Commerce Commissioner makes me pretty confident that she wouldn't try to make the actual enrollment numbers any better than they actually were.

OK, this is a pretty minor update, but according to the last HHS report, as of 4/19, Ohio's official QHP tally stood at 154,668. However, according to this article, it was a few thousand higher than that:

About 157,000 Ohioans signed up for health plans through the federal exchange during the first open enrollment period, which ran from Oct. 1, 2013 into March, 2014. In January, Ohio expanded Medicaid under Obamacare to cover more low-income adults. More than 360,000 people have already enrolled around the state through that new eligibility. And most of the doom and gloom predictions about the Affordable Care Act haven’t come true. Premiums aren’t through the roof, and the website, pretty much works as the federal government prepares for a new round of open enrollment starting Nov.15.

Again, pretty minor stuff, but as we enter the 2nd year of the ACA exchanges being open (slightly different from the 2nd open enrollment period, of course, which doesn't start for another 6 weeks), I figure it's a good idea to get some little details up to date.

Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts is scrambling for his political life after the Kansas Democratic Party pulled off a clever maneuver by deliberately dropping out of the race in order to shore up support for independent challenger Greg Orman (who may or may not caucus with the Dems, but would still be a huge step up from Roberts).

Anyway, Roberts has gone on the attack against Orman with a rather lame attack ad trying to paint Orman as an Obama/Pelosi/Ultra-Leftie Liberal, bla bla bla.

Aside from general Obamacare bashing, the ad makes one interesting claim: That "20,000 Kansans lost their healthcare because of" the ACA. The headline accompanying the narration reads "Obamacare cancels almost 20,000 Kansas health care plans" and cites "Kansas Watchdog" from 10/31/13 as the source:

Pages