Total national healthcare spending in 2019 grew 4.6%, which was similar to the 4.7% growth in 2018 and the average annual growth since 2016 of 4.5%, according to a study conducted by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and published today ahead of print by Health Affairs.
This report includes health expenditure data though 2019 and therefore does not include any of the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on health care spending. Future reports for 2020 forward will measure health expenditures based on the latest available data and will reflect the impacts of the pandemic on total health care spending as well as on the distribution of spending among the services, payers, and sponsors of health care.
For the past few months, I've been keeping track, to the best of my ability, of how many people have been enrolling in ACA exchange policies utilizing the COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods which have been offered by 12 of the 13 state-based exchanges (SBEs). My most recent update brings the grand total of confirmed SEP enrollments to at least 260,000 across 8 states, averaging around 3,500 per day.
The actual number is obviously higher than this, of course, since I don't have any data from the other four state exchanges (DC, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont), although three of those four are pretty small anyway...and even in New York, their unique "Essential Plan" (the Basic Health Plan program established under the ACA itself) has likely been sucking up the bulk of individual market enrollees earning up to 200% FPL anyway...and you can enroll in the Essential Plan year-round regardless of the pandemic. I therefore doubt that NY's COVID SEP numbers for those earning more than 200% FPL are that dramatic. All told, I'd expect NY, RI, VT & DC to only add perhaps another 25,000 or so QHP enrollees to the table below:
Well, today I received a likely answer which is depressing but not surprising at all: According to my sources, there isn't any technical, logistical, personnel or support reasons why HealthCare.Gov couldn't launch a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period at any time. The only logical conclusion is that the White House has decided not to allow one for political reasons.
...The more people who come to rely on the Affordable Care Act--especially the ACA exchange operated by the Trump Administration itself--the more difficult it's going to be to justify the Trump Administration continuing to support a lawsuit with the sole purpose of attempting to have the ACA struck down by the Supreme Court...which they're continuing to try and do even in the middle of a pandemic.
Over the next week or so, more and more of the 13 state-based ACA exchanges announced just such a COVID-19 SEP; eventually 12 out of 13 state-based exchanges did so (Idaho is the odd man out), and eventually even the health insurance industry (which is normally opposed to allowing exceptions to the official Open Enrollment Period) were onboard with a COVID SEP. Two weeks ago I was 95% certain that HC.gov would be announcing one at any moment.
And then...nothing. Nothing last week. Nothing yesterday. Nothing as of this writing.
Earlier today at the White House Task Force Press Briefing, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that all elective surgeries, non-essential medical, surgical, and dental procedures be delayed during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
As more healthcare providers are increasingly being asked to assist with the COVID-19 response, it is critical that they consider whether non-essential surgeries and procedures can be delayed so they can preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), beds, and ventilators.
“The reality is clear and the stakes are high: we need to preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of this fight,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.
California's SEP is for uninsured residents who didn't know that the state had reinstated the individual mandate penalty and expanded financial subsidies to those earning 400-600% of the Federal Poverty Line; DC is offering one for those who didn't know they had also reinstated the mandate penalty; and Maryland passed a clever law last year which lets residents check a box when they file their state taxes if they're uninsured which tells the state to contact them to help them enroll.
I concluded that:
...as far as I know, there's nothing preventing other state-based exchanges from establishing Special Enrollment Periods for the coronavirus crisis if they want to.
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is posting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Essential Health Benefits (EHB) Coverage in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This action is part of the broader, ongoing effort by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to ensure that all Americans – particularly those at high-risk of complications from the COVID-19 virus – have access to the health benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of this disease.
“Amid a serious outbreak like this one, Americans understandably crave the security and peace of mind that comes from understanding exactly how they will be covered.” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Today’s guidance aims to give it to them. Working closely with states and issuers around the country, the Trump Administration will continue to provide pertinent information to strengthen the nation’s response and keep Americans informed.”
Medicare chief asked taxpayers to cover stolen jewelry
A top Trump health appointee sought to have taxpayers reimburse her for the costs of jewelry, clothing and other possessions, including a $5,900 Ivanka Trump-brand pendant, that were stolen while in her luggage during a work-related trip, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.
Seema Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, filed a $47,000 claim for lost property on Aug. 20, 2018, after her bags were stolen while she was giving a speech in San Francisco the prior month. The property was not insured, Verma wrote in her filing to the Health and Human Services department.
The federal health department ultimately reimbursed Verma $2,852.40 for her claim, a CMS spokesperson said.
Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid released several important data-heavy reports, featuring a lot of month-by-month, state-by-state and year-by-year ACA enrollment data. There's a lot of data to dig into, so I'm breaking this into several posts.
First up: Average monthly effectuated enrollments. It's important to understand the difference between someone selecting a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) from one of the ACA exchanges during the Open Enrollment Period and someone actually being enrolled in an effectuated policy...that is, just because you sign your family up for a policy on HealthCare.Gov (or a state-based exchange), you aren't considered effectuated until you actually pay for the policy.
This report provides average effectuated enrollment and premium data for the Federal and State-Based Exchanges for the first six months of the 2018 plan year. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes effectuated enrollment data semiannually to provide a more accurate picture of enrollment trends for the Exchanges than indicated by the number of individuals who simply selected a plan during Open Enrollment. For coverage to be considered effectuated, individuals generally must pay their premium for the given month.
A few days ago, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid released three important new reports on the 2018 Open Enrollment Period and trends in the individual market. There's a lot of data to go over, so I'm breaking my analysis into several smaller posts for easier readability.
Now we move onto the second report released by CMS this week: The "Subsidized/Unsubsidized Enrollment Trend Report". If you set aside the anti-ACA digs from the Trump Administration, there's some fascinating data to be found, including what they claim to be one of the Holy Grails of the ACA individual market: Supposedly accurate data on the number of off-exchange ACA-compliant enrollees across the first four years of the ACA exchanges! Yes, I know, it's exciting, heady stuff.
NOTE: My broadband connection has been experiencing a lot of problems lately; I have a service guy on his way out today for the fourth time in the past two weeks, but this means I'll likely be offline for a few hours, so this post will be incomplete for awhile.
Over the past few weeks,I've posted partial 2018 Open Enrollment Period demographic data from Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, New York and Washington State. Still missing are final wrap-up reports from the other 7 state-based exchanges...as well as The Big One: The official report from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE).
The 2014 ASPE report was released on May 1st, 2014...just 17 days after the first, tumultuous 2014 Open Enrollment Period ended (only 12 days, really, since the report actually ran through April 19th, 2014 even though the "overtime" period technically ended on April 15th).
This just in...I used to track the monthly Medicaid/CHIP reports pretty religiously, but the total numbers have actually stayed fairly stable month to month for the past year or so (mainly because the states which expanded Medicaid under the ACA have mostly "maxed out" by now). This should start changing in Maine later this year as they voted to expand the program via ballot initiative last November, and Virginia may end up expanding Medicaid to up to 400,000 people there as well later this year.
In the meantime, here's where things stood as of the end of 2017, according to CMS: