ACA Sabotage

2019 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

(sigh) Just nine hours ago I posted the following about Kentucky's Medicaid expansion work requirement waiver:

A waiver was approved for Kentucky last spring, but has been (temporarily?) invalidated by court order.

I guess it's a good thing I included the "temporarily" caveat, because just moments ago...

.@CMSGov just re-approved Kentucky’s #Medicaid waiver. https://t.co/2Q16AKQoLS

— Dustin Pugel (@Dpugel) November 21, 2018

Sure enough, here it is:

The midterms are over, and the Democrats won back the U.S. House, so the ACA is (mostly) safe at last, right?

Well...maybe. In addition to the ongoing regulatory sabotage by the Trump Administration to undermine, weaken and generally piss all over the law as much as possible, there's also still a little thing called Texas vs. Azar, aka the #TexasFoldEm federal lawsuit. Oral arguments were held way back in early September, and right-wing Judge O'Connor claimed that he'd rule on a preliminary injunction "quickly" afterwards.

Well, today is November 18th, and there's been nary a peep from Judge O'Connor. Does 75 days later count as "quickly"? In judiciary time, I suppose it might.

With the 2018 Midterm Elections mostly out of the way (there's still at least 7 statewide races which haven't been called yet in Georgia, Florida and Arizona which are currently in the process of various counts, recounts and/or run-off elections), the Democratic Party has indeed retaken the U.S. House of Reprentatives by a solid margin, adding anywhere from 33 - 40 House seats when they only needed a net gain of 23 to take control. Starting in January, the House Democrats will be able to vote on and pass pretty much whatever bills they want, presumably under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

About a year ago I did a little back-of-the-envelope number crunching regarding the insanely stupid way in which the Affordable Care Act handles the Hyde Amendment.

In U.S. politics, the Hyde Amendment is a legislative provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Legislation, including the Hyde Amendment, generally restricts the use of funds allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services and consequently has significant effects involving Medicaid recipients. Medicaid currently serves approximately 6.5 million women in the United States, including 1 in 5 women of reproductive age (women aged 15–44).

As I noted a few days ago, now that the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period is actually underway and the approved individual market premium rate changes have been posted publicly for every state, I'm finally able to go back and wrap up my 2019 Rate Hike Project for the nine states which I was still missing final numbers for.

As I further noted, the approved rates in most of those states didn't change much compared to the preliminary/requested rate changes I had already analyzed earlier this year:

I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.

Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these.

Nebraska has a slightly confusing siutation, which is surprising since Medica is the only carrier offering ACA policies in the state, When I first took a look at the requested premium changes for 2019 back in August, it looked like the average was around 1.0%...that was based on splitting the difference between the 3.69% and -2.60% listings, since the filing form was redacted and I didn't know what the relative market split was between Medica's product lines.

I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.

Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these.

West Virginia's requested average rate increase was among the highest in the country for 2019--a weighted average of around 14.9%.

However, while state insurance regulators left one of the three carriers offering individual market policies alone, they knocked the other two down substantially: CareSource was lowered from around 13.1% to 9.5%, while Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield was lowered from an average of 15.9% to 9.0%.

I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.

Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these. In addition, in a few states the insurance department has also posted their own final/approved rate summary.

I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.

Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these. Making things even easier (although not necessarily better from an enrollee perspective), in three states the approved rates are exactly what the requested rates were for every carrier: Alabama, Mississippi and Utah:

This is about as minor a rate filing update as I've had, but I'm posting it separately in the interest of completeness.

Insurance carriers in my home state of Michigan originally submitted their requested 2019 ACA individual market rate filings back in June. At the time, the average premium increase being asked for was pretty nominal, around 1.7%, with a smaller-than-average #ACASabotage factor of around 5% due to the ACA's Individual Mandate being repealed and #ShortAssPlans being expanded by the Trump Administration.

Today, just two days before the 2019 Open Enrollment Period actually begins, the Michigan Dept. of Financial Services finally posted the approved 2019 rate filings...and practically nothing ended up changing.

OK, this is a pretty minor update, but in the interest of completeness I should post it.

In mid-September, the Washington State insurance commissioner posted the approved 2019 average ACA individual market premium changes for carriers statewide, coming in at 13.8% overall.

The only problem is that the report only included the seven on-exchange ACA market carriers. The four carriers which offer off-exchange policies (which are pretty much identical and are part of the same risk pool, but don't qualify for tax credits) weren't included. They make up roughly 23% of Washington State's total individual market.

Today, just a few days before Open Enrollment begins, the WA Insurance Commissioner posted the complete approved rate change information. The overall average has dropped slightly, to 13.6%:

Eleven insurers approved to sell 74 plans in Washington's 2019 individual market
13.57 percent average rate increase approved

October 29, 2018

As regular readers know, every spring/summer I spend countless hours poring over the annual insurance carrier rate filings, plugging in increases (and occasionally decreases) in ACA-compliant premium changes for every carrier in every state. I actually do this twice for most states (and occasionally even three times), as the process moves from preliminary/requested rate changes to "semifinal" rates to "final/approved" rates throughout the fall.

For 2018 and again for 2019, I've taken this one step further; instead of simply running the overall weighted average premium changes in each state, I've also attempted to break out what portion of the change is caused by various factors...in particular, what portion is caused by legislative or regulatory changes by Congressional Republicans and/or the Trump Administration.

 

One of the great strengths and dangers of the ACA is that it includes tools for individual states to modify the law to some degree by improving how it works at the local level. The main way this can be done is something called a "Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver":

Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) permits a state to apply for a State Innovation Waiver to pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA.

State Innovation Waivers allow states to implement innovative ways to provide access to quality health care that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as would be provided absent the waiver, provides coverage to a comparable number of residents of the state as would be provided coverage absent a waiver, and does not increase the federal deficit.

OK, I had kind of forgotten about this. Back in early June, insurance carriers in Pennsylvania submitted their preliminary 2019 ACA market premium change requests. At the time, they averaged around a 4.9% increase statewide, which seemed pretty impressive under the circumstances.

Then, late July, the PA insurance department issued a press release stating that state regulators had modified the 2019 requests, and that the new, revised average was much lower...a mere 0.7% average rate hike. However, the individual carriers as well as the insurance department made it very clear that this nominal increase included a 6 point rate increase to account for the ACA's individual mandate being repealed and the Trump Administration's expansion of non-ACA compliant short-term and association plans.

I originally wrote about District of Columbia carrier requested 2019 ACA rate changes back in June. At the time, they were seeking a weighted average increase of around 15.5% across the District.

However, the DC exchange board was also working quickly in an attempt to counter the Trump Administration's #ACASabotage factors, by voting to restrict short-term plans, to lock in DC's Open Enrollment Period at a full 3 months as in years past, and to reinstate the ACA's individual mandate penalty at the local level.

As of early September, all of these things appeared to have been approved by the exchange board and/or the DC Council.

On September 19, the DC Dept. of Insurance, Securities & Banking posted the approved 2019 ACA rate changes, and the average increase for the individual market had been shaved down from 15.5% to 13.0%:

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