UnitedHealth Group will stop offering plans on Arkansas' health insurance exchange next year, a spokesman for the Arkansas Insurance Department said Thursday.
The Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer offered plans this year for the first time, but it didn't submit plans to the department for 2017, department spokesman Ryan James said.
The deadline for insurers to submit such plans was April 1, he said.
This is hardly unexpected news for a couple of reasons. First, UHC made huge waves last November by making a big, dramatic announcement that they might very well drop out of the ACA exchanges altogether next year after taking large losses on exchange enrollees in 2015. As you may recall, this was a very oddly-timed announcement given that they had issued a glowing quarterly report just a month earlier which made it sound like everything was hunky-dory.
This is a huge story which I should have been following, but a) I was on vacation the past couple of weeks, b) I can't cover everything healthcare-related, and c) it's really not directly related to the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, the Arkansas Times' David Ramsey has been all over it, so I'll let him lay it out for you:
...all three members of the household were among almost 36,000 Arkansans who were kicked off of their health coverage on July 31. Insurance for another 13,000 people across the state will terminate at the end of this month. The cancellations are the result of a statewide sweep of Medicaid performed by the Arkansas Department of Human Services in an attempt to weed out those beneficiaries whose incomes are too high.
Last week I estimated the overall weighted average rate increases for the Arkansas individual market at "between 4-5%", with a rough estimate of around 4.6%.
Today, Arkansas Times reporter David Ramsey has provided the exact market share numbers for Arkansas. When I plug these in, the weighted average comes in a bit higher, at 4.98%:
HOWEVER, according to Ramsey, the Arkansas Insurance Division says that the actual weighted average is only 4.4% overall.
There could be any number of reasons for the discrepancy; it's possible that there's a few additional minor off-exchange carriers who I've missed, or there could be rounding errors/etc. In any event, these are all just estimates anyway, so I'll go with AID's official 4.4% figure.
Yes, I'm back. From what I can tell, the major Obamacare/health insurance-related stories while I was out were a) Scott Walker/Marco Rubio finally releasing their proposed "replacement plans" (such as they are) for the ACA, and b) the approved 2016 rate changes for ACA-compliant individual/small group policies across a whole mess of states (technically all 50 states +DC had to be finalized as of 2 days ago, but it'll still take awhile to dig up all of them, since many news stories & reports may leave out off-exchange plans, increases of less than 10% and/or actual market share for weighting purposes).
I'm ignoring the Walker/Rubio story for the moment, mainly because they're both complete jokes, but will write up something about that later. For now, let's dive into the approved 2016 rate change story, starting with Arkansas.
IMPORTANT:See this detailed explanation of how I've come up with the following estimated maximum requested weighted average rate increases for this state.
As explained in the first link above, I've still been able to piece together rough estimates of the low, mid-range and maximum possiblerequestedaverage rate increase for the Arkansas individual market. Note: While the table & methodology for Arkansas are the same as most of the other states I've posted on, there's one important difference here; see below for details:
Instead, this time they've broken the numbers out by state:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Arkansas and Kentucky continue to have the sharpest reductions in their uninsured rates since the healthcare law took effect at the beginning of 2014. Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington join them as states that have at least a 10-percentage-point reduction in uninsured rates.
Two late-breaking news items, one negative, the other potentially positive:
Arkansas:The good news a few weeks ago was that newly-elected Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson did not kill off AR's unique "private option" Medicaid expansion program as many had feared; instead, he actually proposed extending it pretty much as is for another 2 years, to the relief of decent folks, and the state legislature seemed to be OK with that (another surprise).
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has signed legislation that will end by 2017 the state’s innovative but controversial adaptation of the Affordable Care Act, which has provided nearly 190,000 residents with health coverage.
David Ramsey has the full skinny on the unpleasant situation in Arkansas, where their "private option" Medicaid expansion program, which was always weird with a beard to begin with, is very much at risk of collapsing altogether:
Well, here we go again. The legislature is once again ready to debate the private option – the state’s unique version of Medicaid expansion, which uses funds available via the Affordable Care Act to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will take a long-awaited position on the policy in a speech at UAMS tomorrow morning. Then it will be up to the legislature. Health insurance for more than 200,000 Arkansans is at stake. Here are some keys to remember as the debate unfolds tomorrow and in the coming weeks.
The short version: The AR program has to be re-approved by the legislature every year, and requires a 75% majority to do so, so it's a wonder that it's survived this long, frankly.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that newly elected Republican. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to address the program, which uses Medicaid dollars to pay for private coverage, in a speech this week. Arkansas's plan must be re-approved every year.
The program is contending with Hutchinson and a batch of newly elected Republican lawmakers who ran against it. The funding must be approved by three-fourths of the state legislature every year. As TPM previously reported, getting approval in 2014 required a significant amount of horse-trading and deal-making under Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.
...Even if Hutchinson agrees to keep the so-called private option, he is expected to propose more conservative-minded changes. Senate President Jonathan Dismang told the AP that Medicaid expansion "is not going to exist in its current form."
The good news: Enrollment in the ACA private Medicaid option program is up to 218K, about 7,000 higher than it was as of mid-October.The bad news: With the state legislature & governor's office being completely overrun by Republicans, the future of the program isn't looking great:
The other day I noted that Republican Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas, currently in a heated battle with U.S. Senator Mark Pryor to take Pryor's seat, is proposing not only stripping healthcare from the 200,000 people in his state who have gained healthcare this year thanks to the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expanion provision (the "private option" in AR) as well as 40,000 people who are paying for policies via the ACA exchange, but is going even further by pushing for half of the pre-Obamacare Medicaid/CHIP budget to be slashed.
This would effectively result in up to 20% of the state's entire population losing their healthcare coverage...every one of whom is either poor or barely middle-class at best.
First, I just want to take a minute to note that over the past year, I've discovered that while there's lots of good reporting on the ACA nationally, there are certain states which have one particular person who's the "go to" journalist for all things Obamacare-related.
Boy, this syndrome of Republicans seemingly forgetting that repealing Obamacare would mean that hundreds of thousands of the very people they're hoping will vote for them would have their shiny new healthcare coverage torn away from them seems to be spreading fast. I'm calling it "repealnesia".