2017 Rate Changes

IMPORTANT: This is really just a placeholder for Georgia's 2017 average rate hike requests, because it's extremely spotty and partial so far. I'll update it once I'm able to actually track down the bulk of Georgia's individual market enrollment and rate hike request numbers.

UPDATE 7/25/16:  I've managed to acquire the additional filings; see update below

Back in early May, Covered California, the largest state-based ACA exchange in the country, issued their proposed 2016-2017 budget, which included this tidbit:

California’s health insurance exchange estimates that its Obamacare premiums may rise 8 percent on average next year, which would end two consecutive years of more modest 4 percent increases.

The projected rate increase in California, included in the exchange’s proposed annual budget, comes amid growing nationwide concern about insurers seeking double-digit premium hikes in the health law’s insurance marketplaces.

...Insurers in California have submitted initial rates for 2017, but the final figures won’t be known until July after state officials conduct private negotiations.

Just a quickie here: Last month I cobbled together the 2017 requested rate filings for the individual market in Nevada and calculated that the weighted average hike request was around 15.0% even. According to an local news article from Saturday, I was dead on target...and they also helpfully noted that the average request for the small group market for next year is just 4%:

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Health insurance costs for about 240,000 Nevadans who buy individual or small-group plans are expected to rise next year, and state officials want consumers to offer feedback before the proposed rates are locked in in coming weeks.

It's been several weeks since the most recent state was added to my 2017 requested rate change project (Michigan, with a weighted average of 17.2%). There are 15 states remaining...or rather 14 now, because Montana has finally posted their filings for 2017. Here's what the requested changes look like:

Montana's entire individual market was around 70,000 people back in 2014, and has likely grown to around 87,000 today, so it looks like pretty much everyone is accounted for above (the remaining 9,000 or so are presumably enrolled in grandfathered policies; Montana is among the few red states which didn't allow transitional plans).

As for the actual requested rate hikes...ouch. BCBS is seeking a whopping 62% average increase, and since they own 70% of the individual market, that means a statewide weighted average of right around 50% even. Things aren't as ugly on the small group market, but that 27.5% average is still pretty ugly.

OK, regular readers know that I almost never write directly about Medicare-related issues (unless it's in relation to trying to figure out the total uninsured rate and so forth), and I've only even mentioned Medigap before 3 times in the history of this website. I honestly don't know much about the program except that it's basically supplemental insurance which covers treatment/services not already covered by Medicare.

However, this seems like a significant development for my home state:

Seniors can expect to pay an additional $48 to $177 per month on BCBS Medigap plans.

Nearly 200,000 seniors can expect to pay more for their Medigap supplemental health insurance plans next year -- for some older individuals, more than twice their current amount -- when Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan goes forward with a long-awaited rate increase that does away with what the insurer says are below-market rates.

Blue Cross today proposed the new Medigap rates that would take effect on Jan. 1, following a five-year rate freeze for its Legacy Medigap plan.

It's been nearly 2 weeks since the last update to my 2017 Requested Rate Hike project. While I've locked down the requested increases for 35 states and the District of Columbia, the remaining 15 states seem to be pretty quiet about their 2017 rate filings. Today, however, I'm able to fill in at least half of the puzzle for one state: South Dakota.

To the best of my knowledge, there are only 6 carriers offering policies on the SD indy market: Avera, DakotaCare (off-exchange only), Sanford, SD State Medical, Celtic and Wellmark BCBS. It's worth noting that DakotaCare is in the process of being bought out by Avera, but I'm not sure whether they'll be submitting separate filings or not.

SD's total individual market was roughly 73,000 people in 2014, and has presumably grown since then to perhaps 90,000 today...including grandfathered and transitional enrollees.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released their monthly tracking poll today. In addition to the usual questions about the ACA (spoiler: Republicans generally don't like it, Democrats generally do, and there's absolutely no consensus about what the public wants to do about it anyway), they also mixed things up a bit by asking timely questions about the Zika virus and increasing insurance policy premiums.

Here's the one which I find the most depressing...but also the least surprising:

Overall, nearly nine in ten (88 percent) Americans say they are concerned about increases in the amount people pay for their health insurance premiums. This is followed closely by the percent who are concerned about increases in the costs of deductibles (85 percent), increases in what the nation as whole spends on health care (83 percent), and increases in prescription drug costs (82 percent). Fewer but still large majorities of insured Americans are concerned about increases in spending on government health insurance programs (74 percent) and increases in the amount employers pay for their employees’ premiums (71 percent).

I'm still waiting on the 2017 requested rate changes for Minnesota's individual market, but there's one carrier which won't be asking for any changes: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota:

Minnesota's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year. The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision.

"Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years," BCBSM said in a statement.

The Blues reported a loss of $265 million on insurance operations from individual market plans in 2015. The insurer said claims for medical care far exceeded premium revenue for those plans.

My home state of Michigan has finally published the "Part II - Consumer Justification Narrative" carrier filings for 14 of the 15 carriers offering individual market plans next year. The combined total number of current enrollees comes in at around 390,000 including both on and off-exchange numbers. Last year, Michigan had 560,000 people on the ACA-compliant individual market, so it's important to note that there's likely at least 170,000 people missing from this analysis. However, many of these are likely found here:

  • UnitedHealthcare is pulling out of the MI market (unknown number of enrollees)
  • Humana is dropping their PPO offerings only (1,717 enrollees, included in table)
  • Celtic, Consumer's Mutual, HealthPlus and Time Insurance are all long gone
  • While I have the data for "Priority Health Plan", their counterpart, "Priority Health Insurance Co." has an unknown number of additional enrollees...and an unknown rate hike request (I don't know if it just hasn't been added to the database yet or what).

It should be noted, however, that last year, "Priority Health Insurance Co." had only about 1/10th as many enrollees as "Priority Health". If that ratio holds up this year, that should only be around 9,000 people, which is unlikely to skew the statewide average up or down by much.

With that in mind, here's how the requested hikes shake out in the Wolverine state for the bulk of indy market enrollees next year:

The Idaho insurance department website has made this really easy for me. Most states either don't provide the requested rate hikes at all (forcing me to track them down via a slew of SERFF filing forms) or, if they do provide the rate requests, they don't provide the actual enrollment numbers for each carrier, making it very difficult to run a weighted average.

In the case of Idaho, they don't give the enrollment numbers, but they've already ran the average and posted the weighted number for me! Better yet, they've done this for both the Individual and Small Group markets:

UPDATE 6/22/16: I've been informed that there was a coding glitch with Utah's website which prevented several carrier rate filings from being listed. I've gone back and plugged in the additional carriers, which account for about 32,000 more Utah residents...but which only moves the weighted average slightly, since Molina's request is fairly close to the 30% average I already had estimated.

This leaves around 93K unaccounted for. Some of them are presumably enrolled via University of Utah plans; U of U's enrollment numbers are redacted, and while the Utah site claims a 0% rate hike, the RR.HC.gov database lists it as 4.47%.

Also, as far as I can tell, "American Medical Security Life Insurance Co." is a branding for UnitedHealthcare, which should clear up that confusion.

UPDATE: It turns out that Humana is not dropping out of Michigan entirely; they're only dropping their PPO plans, not their HMOs.

I noted last month that like UnitedHealthcare, Humana is pulling out of the individual market in multiple states next year. Unlike United, however, both the number of states and the number of enrollees impacted by Humana's withdrawl is fairly nominal; at the time I counted 5 states and around 25,000 total enrollees. Since then, Humana has confirmed that they're also dropping out of Colorado (9,914 enrollees), for a total of roughly 35,400 people nationally.

Today, I've confirmed that Michigan can be added to the list, impacting 1,717 people enrolled in off-exchange PPO plans. This brings the total to around 37,000 nationally:

Here's some relatively good news! Ohio's 2017 requested rate filings have finally been published, and considering that some other states are looking at weighted average requested increases of 30%, 40% or even as high as 56%, Ohio's 13.1% average is actually refreshingly low by 2017 standards.

It's actually even better than that, because as you can see below, I haven't been able to track down the actual current membership number for "Buckeye Community Health" (aka Ambetter)...and Buckeye is asking to lower their rates slightly, by around 1% on average. To get an idea of how this could impact the statewide average:

  • Assuming 0 enrollees: No impact at all; 13.1% average.
  • Assuming 10,000 enrollees: Would reduce avg. to 12.4%
  • Assuming 50,000 enrollees: Would reduce avg. to 10.1%
  • Assuming 100,000 enrollees: Would reduce avg. to 8.1%

Again, without knowing how many people Buckeye/Ambetter actually has currently enrolled, it's impossible to say what the weighted statewide average is...but I can say that it's no more than 13.1%.

*("Approved" is preliminary; see below)

Oregon was the second state to publicly announce the rate changes their carriers are requesting for the 2017 individual and small group markets. The overall weighted average request on the individual market side came in at a requested 27.5% increase, while the small group market requests had an average increase of just 1% overall (I didn't weight the small group enrollment numbers at the time, but have done so below).

Yesterday (thanks to commenter farmbellpsu for the tip), the Oregon Dept. of Insurance announced preliminary approved rates for 2017:

After a brutal two years in which they lost a collective $253.3 million, Oregon's health insurers are again seeking double-digit price hikes in 2017.

This just in...and it relates directly to my prior post just a couple of hours ago about Alabama finally implementing their own Effective Rate Review program this year. Just moments ago, the HHS Dept. issued this press release:

CMS Announces $22 Million in Affordable Care Act Funding for State Insurance Departments
Awards will help states enforce Affordable Care Act consumer protections

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