2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

...which brings me to today's Detroit News, via Jonathan Oosting:

Senate uses salary threat to push Medicaid work plan

Lansing — Michigan’s Republican-led Senate is pressuring Gov. Rick Snyder to back sweeping changes to the state’s Medicaid health insurance system, including proposed work requirements and a tougher 48-month benefit limit for the Healthy Michigan plan.

I've trashed CMS Administrator Seema Verma many times for her callous and backward-logic driven push to impose pointless, counterproductive work requirements on ACA Medicaid expansion enrollees. However, it appears that even she has her limits when it comes to treating people terribly:

The Trump administration has drawn a red line on Medicaid cuts. There are some proposals that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won’t approve.

In a letter on Monday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma told Kansas officials that her agency would not approve the state’s request to impose lifetime limits, which would have capped a person’s eligibility at three years, after which they could no longer be covered by the program.

Verma noted that the administration had approved proposals by other states to cut off benefits for Medicaid enrollees only if they fail to meet certain work requirements.

Presented without comment:

President Trump is sending a plan to Congress that calls for stripping more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with the hope that it will temper conservative angst over ballooning budget deficits.

Almost half of the proposed cuts would come from two accounts within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that White House officials said expired last year or are not expected to be drawn upon. An additional $800 million in cuts would come from money created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to test innovative payment and service delivery models.

Those are just a handful of the more than 30 programs the White House is proposing to Congress for “rescission,” a process of culling back money that was previously authorized. Once the White House sends the request to Congress, lawmakers have 45 days to vote on the plan or a scaled-back version of it through a simple majority vote.

Hot on the heels of Virginia, Maryland is the 2nd state to post their preliminary 2019 unsubsidized ACA policy rate increase requests. According to Paul Demko of Politico...

Insurers selling Obamacare plans in Maryland are again seeking huge rate increases for 2019, but they could be knocked down significantly by a reinsurance program the state hopes to implement for next year.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to increase rates on average by 18.5 percent on its HMO plans, which account for more than half of the individual market this year. Kaiser Permanente, the only other insurer selling on the exchange, is seeking a 37.4 percent average increase on its HMO plans, which cover just over a third of Obamacare customers.

A couple of days ago, I posted that Virginia has become the first state out of the gate with their preliminary 2019 premium rate requests for ACA individual policies. However, I made sure to emphasize that these are preliminary requests only; carriers often resubmit their rate change requests more than once over the course of the summer/fall, and even that may not match whatever the final, approved rate changes are by the state insurance commissioner.

In addition, I generally try to make it understood that there's alotof room for error here--the weighted averages are based on the number of current enrollees, but of course that number can change from month to month as people drop policies or sign up during the off-season (via Special Enrollment Periods). Even then, the rate filing paperwork is often vague or confusing about just how many enrollees they actually have in these plans. Sometimes wonks are reduced to taking the number of "member months" and dividing by 12 to get a rough idea of how many people are enrolled in any given month. Sometimes the only number of enrollees available are from last year, which could bear zero resemblence to how many are currently enrolled. Sometimes the only number available is how many people the carrier expects to enroll in their policies next year. And so on.

Aside from Virginia, it's likely going to be another month or so before the 2019 ACA policy rate filings start trickling in, since the deadline for initial rate requests isn't until late June in most states. However, there's some interesting non-ACA policy filing stuff which is available as well. Given all the concern about non-ACA compliant policies siphoning healthy people away from the ACA market, I figured I should take a look at a few of these.

Here in Michigan, I've found three such filings: One is for "transitional" plans from Golden Rule (a subsidiary of Unitedhealthcare, I believe). The other two are for "short-term" plans (the type which Donald Trump is basically removing any regulation on).

First up, Golden Rule:

IMORTANT UPDATE: As I suspected, it turns out that the stray rate filing posted to the California Insurance Dept. website a few days ago was posted prematurely, doesn't reflect the carrier's final* rate filing, and has since been pulled from the California Insurance Dept. website.

I've been asked to remove the filing data, and seeing how there's nothing nefarious about it (I wasn't "whistleblowing" evidence of anything criminal/unethical), I'm complying with that request. Since everything in the post related to that data, there wasn't much point in keeping the rest of it either.

*(Yes, I'm aware that none of these early filings are "final" since they tend to be revised/resubmitted throughout the summer/fall, but you know what I mean.)

...and to absolutely no one's surprise, GOP sabotage of the ACA will be directly responsible for a significant chunk of the individual market premium increases.

Every year for 3 years running, I've spent the entire spring/summer/early fall painstakingly tracking every insurance carrier rate filing for the following year to determine just how much average insurance policy premiums on the individual market are going to increase (or, in a few rare instances, actually decrease).

The actual work is difficult due to the ever-changing landscape as carriers jump in and out of the market, their tendency repeatedly revise their requests, and the confusing blizzard of actual filing forms which sometimes make it easy to find the specific data I need and sometimes make it next to impossible.

Well, Keith Hall, Director of the Congressional Budget Office, just confirmed pretty much everything that we've been saying for a year or more now:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), in section 1402, requires insurers who participate in the marketplaces established under that act to offer CSRs to eligible people who purchase silver plans through the marketplaces. CBO views that requirement as establishing an entitlement for thoseeligible.

To qualify for CSRs, people must purchase a plan through a marketplace and generally have income between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (also known as the federal poverty level, or FPL). The size of the subsidy varies with income.

CSRs reduce deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses like copayments. For example, in 2017, by CBOs estimates, the average deductible for a single policyholder (for medical and drug expenses combined) with a silver plan varied according to income in the followingway:

I've written quite a bit about the attempt by the GOP-controlled state legislature to push through work requirements for ACA Medicaid expansion here in Michigan. The bill (SB897) was quickly passed on partisan lines in the state Senate last week, and has now been taken up by the appropriations committee in the state House.

I actually shlepped my butt all the way out to Lansing yesterday morning to attend the committee hearing. Unfortunately, there were so many others who wanted to speak during the Public Comment period, I didn't get a chance to chime in.

Anyway, during the hearing, there was a reference to one provision of the proposed Senate version of the bill which caught my attention:

 

As noted a few days ago, I've posted Part One of my latest crudely-produced-but-hopefully-informative video explainer.

The first part gives an overview of how healthcare Risk Pools actually work and why quarantining sick people into a separate High Risk Pool is such a terrible idea.

The second part, which I hope to post in the next few days, will go into why Donald Trump's recent Short-Term/Association Plan executive order will make a problem which already existed in 2017, and which was made worse by the GOP (by design) in 2018, even worse starting in 2019.

NOTE: Just to clarify, here's where the headline comes from:

...Sponsoring Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, created exemptions in the Michigan legislation that would waive the work requirement for parents with young children, pregnant women or caretakers for disabled family members. But asked about people like Maitre who could still lose health care, he told reporters the social safety net “by definition, has a lot of holes in it.”

“The best safety net ever invented by God is family,” Shirkey said, “but I’m not sure that government is supposed to supplement that process.”

Well, here we go:

#BREAKING tomorrow morning the House Appropriations Committee is taking up SB 897. Another Republican attempt to take away healthcare from Michigan families https://t.co/WsUhyntINj

— MI House Democrats (@MIHouseDems) May 2, 2018

What the heck, I'll make this Medicaid Expansion News Day:

Virginia’s Republican-led legislature is on the verge of doing something that would’ve been almost unthinkable just a year ago: approving legislation that would use money from the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid to as many as 400,000 people.

That coverage expansion would come at a price for Democratic legislators, progressive activists and low-income Virginians, however. Any Medicaid expansion bill that makes it out of the General Assembly will carry with it new work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, a priority for the GOP at large and for President Donald Trump’s administration.

Democrats in the Virginia legislature have tried in vain for six years to persuade their GOP counterparts that accepting federal dollars to extend Medicaid coverage to poor adults is the right thing to do. Accepting a work-requirements policy that would create bureaucratic obstacles to eligible Virginians appears to be the compromise needed to win the bigger fight.

As long as I'm focusing on Medicaid expansion news (and since I write about Montana pretty rarely), here's a mildly interesting tidbit:

Last June I noted that ACA Medicaid expansion in Montana had increased dramatically in a year and a half, from 47,000 in early 2016 to over 77,000 enrollees as of May 2017.

According to this article, they're now up to 91,000:

HELENA — There are 91,563 Montanans participating in the Medicaid expansion HELP act as of Jan. 15, generating nearly $40 million in savings in Medicaid benefits, a state panel was told Thursday.

Members of the Legislature’s Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee reviewed a report on Medicaid expansion. The committee took no immediate action after hearing the report.

As noted earlier, I've been a bit lax with posting for a few days as I've worked on my latest 2-part video explainer about risk pools and #ShortAssPlans.

However, there's been a lot going on, so I figured I should try and at least do a quick update on a few items. First up: Medicaid expansion!

Here in my home state of Michigan, I've written several posts about how the GOP-controlled state legislature trying to shove through a draconian "work requirement" bill for Healthy Michigan, our name for ACA Medicaid expansion program which has been working just fine, thank you very much, for nearly 5 years now. The bill easily passed the state Senate (where the GOP holds a supermajority), and is now under consideration by the state House (where they have a smaller but still solid majority at the moment). The good news is that GOP Governor Rick Snyder--who championed passage of Healthy Michigan in the first place and seems to think it's fine mostly the way it is--is likely to veto the senate version of the bill. The bad news is that it might simply be tweaked somewhat by the House.

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