2020 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

2020 Rate Changes

Every year, I spend months 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 projected to increase or decrease.

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 next to impossible to find the specific data I need. The actual data I need to compile my estimates are actually fairly simple, however. I really only need three pieces of information for each carrier:

  • How many effectuated enrollees they have enrolled in ACA-compliant individual market policies;
  • What their average projected premium rate increase (or decrease) is for those enrollees (assuming 100% of them renew their existing policies, of course); and
  • Ideally, a breakout of the reasons behind those rate changes, since there's usually more than one.
  • In 2015, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2016 would be roughly 12-13% nationally. It turned out to be around 11.6%.
  • In 2016, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2017 would be roughly 25% nationally. It turned out to be around 22%, but that only included on-exchange Silver plan enrollees across 44 states (I included all metal levels, both on and off exchange, across all 50 states).
  • In 2017, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2018 would be around 29% nationally, and that 60% of that would be due specifically to deliberate Trump Administration actions designed to sabotage the ACA markets. It turned out to be around 28% nationally.
  • In 2018, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2019 would be around 2.8% nationally, and that premiums would have dropped around 5.4% on average if not for the ACA's individual mandate being repealed & short-term & association plans being expanded. Hhealthcare think tank Avalere Health came to almost the exact same estimates on the actual rate changes, while Brookings Institute healthcare analyst Matthew Fiedler concluded that unsubsidized ACA individual market premiums would indeed have dropped by around 4.3% nationally on average in the absence of mandate repeal and expansion of #ShortAssPlans.

In other words, I've had a pretty good track record of accurately projecting average premium increases for the upcoming year for four years in a row. With that in mind, below you'll find a table tracking the state-by-state preliminary and final rate changes for the 2020 ACA-compliant individual (and sometimes small group) markets. Scroll down for individual state entry links.

There are three insurance carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market plans in West Virginia: CareSource, Highmark BCBS and Optum, although Optum has barely any enrollees at all, and the other two combined only total around 26,000 people in the state.

The final, approved average unsubsdized premiums for 2020 haven't changed from the requested rates--the weighted statewide average is a 6.7% increase.

Nothing terribly noteworthy about any of this, except that with that 6.7% increase, West Virginia has just taken the title for Most Expensive Obamacare Premiums in the Country, with average premiums averaging $990/month per enrollee, or nearly $12,000/year apiece.

This record was held by Wyoming last year (prior to that I believe Alaska had by far the highest rates in the country, until they instituted their ACA reinsurance waiver a few years back, which reduced full-price premiums by a good 25% or so).

Back in mid-August, I plugged in the preliminary 2020 individual market rate change requests for unsubsidized enrollees in Texas. Unfortunately, at the time I only had hard enrollment data for some of the carriers, which meant I could only run a "semi-weighted" statewide average, which came in at +0.8%.

Since then, I've managed to find the enrollment data for the rest of the carriers as well...and yesterday CMS posted the final, approved 2020 rate changes, allowing me to run the complete, final, fully-weighted average. In the end rates in Texas are dropping by 1.4%:

Mississippi once again has two carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market coverage in 2020: Ambetter of Magnolia, which holds 58% of the market, and Blue Cross Blue Shield with the other 42%. Earlier this year they were asking for average rate hikes of 3.0% and 2.3% respectively, but Ambetter's final/approved rates are coming in at a 1.1% reduction, bringing the overall average down to a mere 0.3% rate hike.

Not much to this one: Wyoming has just a single carrier selling ACA-compliant individual market policies to their 577,000 residents, Blue Cross Blue Shield...which is raising rates 1.6% on average for 2020. No change from their requested increase a few months earlier.

Back in early August, it looked like New Hampshire's avg. unsubsidized 2020 ACA premiums would be increasing slightly, by a little over 1% statewide.

The final, approved 2020 rates are actually dropping slightly:

North Carolina has three individual market carriers in 2019. For 2020, that's increasing to four, as Bright Health Care is expanding into the NC market. The other three carriers (Blue Cross Blue Shield has a near monopoly at the moment) had requested average unsubsidized rate drops of 5.3% previously; in the end the final rates are dropping slightly more, to -5.6%.

Missouri's final/approved avg. 2020 unsubsidized premium rate changes have finally been posted by CMS. For the most part they're following the same pattern as most other states this year with modest increases or decreases and a statewide weighted average decrease of 2.0% year over year. On average, unsubsidized ACA enrollees should pay about $13/month less next year than they are today.

However, what is noteworthy is that not one, not two but three new insurance carriers are entering the MO individual market this fall, bringing the total up to seven operating statewide: Cox Health Systems, Oscar Insurance (which was cofounded by Jared Kushner's brother, FWIW) and SSM Health Insurance.

When I first ran the preliminary 2020 avg. rate hike numbers for Nebraska in August, the sole carrier offering ACA-compliant policies in the state (Medica) was planning on reducing their average premiums by 5.3%. Yesterday the final, approved rates were posted by CMS, and unsubsidized 2020 premiums will be even lower, by 6.9% on average.

For 2020, Bright Health is joining the Nebraska exchange.

I'm not sure how this happened, but it looks like I missed posting about South Dakota's requested 2020 premium rate filings. No matter, though, because the approved avg. rate increases (for unsubsidized enrollees) are exactly the same as what Avera Health Plan and Sanford Health Plan asked for anyway.

Statewide, South Dakota is looking at 6.5% average hikes for 2020.

Utah's final weighted average rate increase is a bit tricky. On the one hand, I have the hard enrollment numbers for three of the five carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market policies. On the other hand, I have no idea what the numbers are for the other two...both of which happen to have the lowest average rate drops in the state (BridgeSpan and Molina).

The weighted average of the other three carriers is a 2.3% reduction. Assuming the other two have, say, 20,000 enrollees apiece, that would knock it down another 1.5 points or so, but until I have a better idea of how many enrollees those carriers have I'll stick with the -2.3% figure.

Oklahoma has three carriers on the Individual Market these days. Once again, all three rate filing memos are redacted, but I was able to dig up the number of current policy holders for one of them (CommunityCare HMO).

The final/approved rate changes are exactly the same as the requested changes from a few months back, but I've managed to lock down the actual enrollment numbers for two of the three carriers. Assuming I'm close on the third one (Medica), the weighted average rate increase statewide should be around 2.7%:

Back in August, I posted an analysis of the preliminary 2020 premium rate filings for the ACA Individual Market here in Michigan based on the actual filing forms from each of the 11 carriers participating in the market.

At the time, I concluded that the weighted average change marketwide was a 2.1% reduction in premiums compared to 2019, for around 333,000 Michiganders on the Indy market. This would mean roughly a $10 average premium reduction per unsubsidized enrollee per month, or $122 per year:

Massachusetts, which is arguably the original birthplace of the ACA depending on your point of view (the general "3-legged stool" structure originated here, but the ACA itself also has a lot of other provisions which are quite different), has ten different carriers participating in the individual market. MA (along with Vermont and the District of Columbia) has merged their Individual and Small Group risk pools for premium setting purposes, so I'm not bothering breaking out the small group market in this case.

Getting a weighted average was a bit tricky. On the one hand, only one or two of the rate filings included actual enrollment data. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Health Connector puts out monthly enrollment reports which do break out the on-exchange numbers by carrier. This allowed me to run a rough breakout of on-exchange MA enrollment. I don't know whether the off-exchange portion has a similar ratio, but I have to assume it does for the moment.

There's only 3 states which are looking at double-digit average unsubsidized premium increases on the 2020 ACA individual market: Indiana, Vermont and Louisiana.

There's actually only 3 carriers offering individual market plans in Louisiana, but there's seven listings because two of the carriers have broken out their submissions into several different product lines. Overall, HMO LA, LA Health Service & Indemnity (Blue Cross Blue Shield of LA) and Vantage Health Plan are requesting average premium increases of 11.7% statewide.

As far as I can tell, state regulators pretty much approved all of the requested rate filings exactly as-is...the weighted average is virtually the same as it was a few months ago with the preliminary requests.

I didn't have the actual enrollment data for the individual carriers when I ran the numbers for Kansas in August, so I had to go with an unweighted average unsubsidized 2020 premium rate change. At the time, that came in at a 3.1% reduction.

Since then, I've dug up the hard enrollment numbers, and just this morning CMS finally posted the final, approved 2020 rate changes. The weighted average comes in at a slight increase o 0.3% statewide:

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