California

Back in January, I noted that California Governor Gavin Newsom was proposing a stripped-down version of one of the most important ACA 2.0 provisions I've been pushing for years now: Raising the ACA's APTC subsidy income eligibility cap and beefing up the underlying subsidy formula.

At the time, he was

Well, the latest official revision to the proposed CA 2019 - 2020 state budget has been released, and not only are both the mandate reinstatement and the enhanced subsidies included, the subsidies have actually been increased a bit more than Newsom was originally proposing:

EXPANDED SUBSIDIES TO PROMOTE AFFORDABLE COVERAGE

To improve affordability and access to health care, the Governor's Budget proposed subsidies to help more low and middle class Californians afford health coverage through Covered California.

via Covered California:

New Analysis Finds Leading State-Based Marketplaces Have Performed Well, and Highlights the Impact of the Federal Mandate Penalty Removal

  • The report examines the impact that federal and state actions have had on state-based marketplaces and the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM).
  • Cumulative premium increases in California, Massachusetts and Washington are less than half of the increases seen in FFM states, but 2019 premium increases spiked in California and Washington compared to Massachusetts, which continued its state-based penalty.

WASHINGTON D.C. — A new report highlights the benefits of state-based exchanges, particularly in the areas of controlling premium costs and attracting new enrollment. The report, which was produced by Covered California, the Massachusetts Health Connector and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, found that premiums in these states were less than half of what consumers saw in the 39 states that relied on the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) between 2014 and 2019.

I don't analyze or write about the ACA's SHOP (Small business Health Options Program) exchange enrollment very much these days. The main reason for this is that SHOP enrollment is extremely difficult to come by. The federal exchange (HealthCare.Gov) has mostly pretended the program doesn't even exist, at least when it comes to enrollment...in fact, to my knowledge, they've only issued a single hard number for HC.gov SHOP enrollment...in 2015:

On November 15th, 2014 we launched the HealthCare.gov portal for 33 states to enroll in SHOP Marketplaces. As of May 2015, approximately 85,000[1] Americans have 2015 coverage through SHOP Marketplaces with about 10,700 small employers participating in SHOP Marketplaces. These totals do not include employers that began coverage in 2014 and have not yet renewed their coverage through HealthCare.gov for 2015.

So, a couple of hours ago, CMS Administrator Seema Verma tweeted out the following:

.@coveredca blames subpar enrollment on no federal mandate penalty, but NJ kept penalty and saw much, much bigger drop. Forcing Americans to buy insurance they can’t afford isn’t the answer.

— Administrator Seema Verma (@SeemaCMS) January 31, 2019

Last fall, I reported that thanks to the one-two punch of a) reinstating the ACA's individual mandate penalty at the state level and b) using the revenue generated from the mandate penalty to help fund a robust reinsurance program, the state of New Jersey had successfully lowered average unsubsidized premiums for 2019 individual market policies by a net swing of nearly 22 percentage points.

This Just In from Covered California...

Covered California Plan Selections Remain Steady at 1.5 Million, but a Significant Drop in New Consumers Signals Need to Restore Penalty

  • Covered California finishes open enrollment with 1.5 million plan selections, which is virtually identical to 2018’s total, despite federal changes.
  • A key reason for the steady enrollment is that more people entered the renewal process for 2019 coverage after a strong enrollment period for 2018.
  • The federal removal of the individual mandate penalty appears to have had a substantial impact, leading to a decrease of 23.7 percent in new enrollment.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced that more than 1.5 million consumers selected a health plan for 2019 coverage during the most recent open-enrollment period, a figure in line with last year’s total. There was a 7.5 percent increase in the number of existing consumers renewing their coverage and a 23.7 percent drop in the number of new consumers signing up for 2019.

A pop-up message appeared on the home page of Connect for Health Colorado on Tuesday the 15th:

If you encounter long hold times today and are unable to get through to our Customer Service Center on Jan. 15 to complete your enrollment, please contact our customer service center no later than 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18 to complete your enrollment. At that time, you must let the representative know that you were unable to get through on Jan. 15.

Oddly, the message didn't include C4HCO's actual phone number: 855 752-6749

Colorado was already within 0.5% of surpassing last year's enrollment total as of January 3rd (just 712 enrollees shy); I'm certain they've beaten that number already.

Gov. Newsom Urges Uninsured to Get Covered Before Midnight Deadline Tomorrow as Covered California Continues Promoting Enrollment

  • Consumers have through Jan. 15 to sign up and select a plan, through Covered California or directly with health plans, for Feb. 1 coverage.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom promotes enrollment for the estimated 1.1 million uninsured Californians eligible to enroll in Covered California or Medi-Cal.
  • Covered California research shows that 82 percent of uninsured consumers surveyed, who are eligible for financial assistance, do not know that they qualify.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday urged Californians who need health insurance to enroll as Covered California continued promoting coverage statewide before the deadline to enroll on Jan. 15.

“Covered California is in the final two days of open enrollment. That means if you are without health insurance, you need to sign up by Tuesday, Jan. 15, to secure health coverage,” Newsom said.

From Covered California:

Covered California’s Iconic Bus Tour Rolls into San Francisco to Promote Health Insurance Enrollment Ahead of Final Deadline

  •  Covered California’s bus tour promotes enrollment and encourages consumers to see if they are eligible for financial help in obtaining quality health insurance.
  •  The San Francisco visit coincides with the release of Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget which focuses on making health care more affordable through increased financial help and a state individual shared responsibility provision.
  •  Consumers have through Jan. 15 to sign up and select a plan, through Covered California or directly with health plans, for Feb. 1 coverage.
  •  An estimated 1.1 million uninsured Californians are eligible to enroll in Covered California and research shows that 82 percent of uninsured consumers surveyed, who are eligible for financial assistance, do not know that they qualify.

Earlier this week, newly-sworn-in Governor Gavin Newsom announced several proposals for improvements to California's implementation of the Affordable Care Act along with some other important healthcare-related measures. The most important ACA-specific ones were:

  • Reinstating the individual mandate penalty at the state level, as New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Vermont and Massachusetts have (VT's doesn't kick in until next year, and MA simply reverted back to their own pre-ACA mandate penalty), and
  • Enhancing ACA subsidies and expanding them to those earning 400-600% of the Federal Poverty Level

Newsom didn't include any details on either proposal, but I assumed that the mandate would simply reinstate what it was under the ACA before being repealed by Congressional Republicans in December 2017 ($695 per person or 2.5% of household income), and that the expanded subsidies would simply take the existing ACA formula (which limits the cost of benchmark Silver plans to no more than 9.86% of household income and provides subsidies to cover the difference after that), and raise the cut-off point from 400% FPL to 600% FPL.

This Just In from Covered California...

California’s Open Enrollment for Individuals Ends Jan. 15; Consumers Have One Week to Sign Up for Health Care Coverage

  • Consumers have through Jan. 15 to sign up and select a plan through Covered California or directly with health plans for coverage that will begin on Feb. 1.
  • The final week of open enrollment comes on the heels of Gov. Newsom’s announcing sweeping proposals, including a new requirement for having coverage and expanded subsidies.
  • While open enrollment ended for much of the nation in December, California’s final deadline is about two weeks earlier than it was in previous years, when open enrollment ran through the end of the month.
  • More than 238,000 consumers had selected a plan through Dec. 31.

Some awesome news out of the Golden State today:

Gov. Gavin Newson announced sweeping proposals to tackle the state’s healthcare needs shortly after taking office on Monday, outlining a dramatic Medi-Cal expansion that would cover young undocumented adults, a requirement that all consumers in the state carry health insurance and increased subsidies for middle-class families to help those who need it.

...Newsom campaigned on a universal healthcare platform and has said the issue would be among his top priorities. His announcement on Monday stopped short of the single-payer system demanded by activists that would cover all residents’ healthcare costs, but was characterized as the first step down that path.

According to the article, Newsom, who just took office a few hours ago, already plans on rolling out his proposed state budget on Thursday, which is expected to include, among other things:

So, it's over, right? Well...not quite. The 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period officially ended last night...but only in 43 states. In the remaining seven (+DC), Open Enrollment hasn't ended yet2019 ACA Open Enrollment is still ongoing for nearly 10% of the population!

  • In Massachusetts, open enrollment runs through Jan. 23rd, 2019 for coverage starting February 1st

ALSO...

This Just In...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 15, 2018

Covered California Extends Deadline for Jan. 1 Coverage Until Friday, Dec. 21

  • Texas District Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act has no impact on Covered California’s open enrollment period.
  • Covered California is extending today’s deadline to Friday, Dec 21, for consumers who want health care coverage that starts on Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Consumers who enroll after Dec. 21, and by Jan. 15, will have their coverage start on Feb. 1.
  • While open enrollment ends in 44 states on Saturday, California is one of seven health insurance marketplaces which will enroll consumers after Dec. 15, serving 25 percent of the U.S. population.
  • 58,000 consumers have signed up since Monday, including 17,000 on Friday.

"Open enrollment is full-steam ahead in California and continues in other states for several more weeks. No one in America should let this TX District Court ruling discourage them from enrolling in health coverage or be worried about using the coverage they have. This case will wind its way through the courts and I’m confident the Supreme Court will once again do the right thing and uphold the Affordable Care Act,"

--Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California

Pelosi Statement on District Judge Ruling in GOP Lawsuit Against Pre-Existing Condition Protections and the Affordable Care Act

“Tonight’s district court ruling exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans’ all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans’ access to affordable health care.

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