In January 2021, the U.S. Senate will have at least 48 Democrats (including 2 Senators who caucus with the Dems) and at least 50 Republicans.
The last two seats are both in Georgia. Elected GOP Senator David Perdue was up for re-election against Democrat Jon Ossoff and a Libertarian candidate, while appointed GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler was running for the first time in a "jungle primary" against another Republican and several Democrats in a special election.
Under Georgia state law, if no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote (plus 1) in the November election, the top two finishers go on to a runoff election on January 5th.
Exactly one month ago, I posted an analysis of the preliminary 2021 premium rate filings for Georgia's individual and small group market carriers. At the time, the requests from the individual market carriers ranged from a 22.8% reduction to as much as an 18.3% increase.
I've also repeatedly noted that estimates by the carriers of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is pretty much all over the place. While a few carriers have indeed baked in significant rate hikes in response to COVID, most either don't mention it at all in their preliminary filings or, if they do, state that they expect the net impact to be negligible. However, they also make sure to hedge their bets by reserving the right to re-file their 2021 requests with adjusted COVID impact.
I've acquired the preliminary 2021 rate filings for Georgia's individual and small group market carriers. There were two filings submitted for many of the carriers because of a (since delayed) ACA Section 1332 waivier submission; the carriers submitted one in case the waiver was approved and a second if it wasn't. Since the process has been delayed, however, the no-waiver filing is the one which is relevant.
As you can see in the tables at the bottom of this entry, the overall weighted rate change requested by individual market carriers in Georgia is a 1.3% reduction, which would have been more like a 2.3% drop if not for the COVID-19 factor, according to the carriers. The small group market carriers are requesting an 11.1% average increase, which is unusually high these days. I haven't reviewed all the memos for the sm. group market to see what they're pinning on COVID-19, however.
Here's what the indy market carriers have to say about the COVID-19 factor in their 2021 filings:
Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday extended Georgia’s coronavirus restrictions while explicitly banning cities and counties from adopting rules requiring masks or other face coverings, a measure that could bolster the state’s case in a possible legal battle.
Kemp’s executive order — which was set to expire Wednesday evening — still encourages, rather than requires, Georgians to wear masks in public. The governor has called such a requirement “a bridge too far,” and his office has said local mandates are unenforceable.
The governor’s coronavirus orders have for months banned local governments from taking more restrictive or lenient steps than the state. But the new set of rules he signed on Wednesday specified for the first time that cities and counties can’t require the use of masks or other face coverings.
For the record, here's how Georgia is doing when it comes to handling COVID-19 at the moment:
Louisiana's 2020 Presidential primary was scheduled for April 4th, but the other day Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin agreed to reschedule it for June 20th...which is actually later than the last previously-scheduled primary in the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 6th:
The presidential primary elections in Louisiana slated for April will be delayed by two months, the latest in a series of dramatic steps government leaders have taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Republican, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, both said Friday they would use a provision of state law that allows them to move any election in an emergency situation to delay the primary.
The presidential primary elections, initially scheduled for April 4th, will now be held June 20th. Ardoin said in a press conference he does not know of any other states that have moved elections because of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Back in November, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp released a proposed ACA Section 1332 Waiver proposal which, if it were to be fully approved, would completely transform the ACA individual marketplace into something entirely different:
On November 4, 2019, Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia released a new draft waiver application under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that, if approved, would reshape the state’s insurance market. The application reflects a two-phase approach: a state-based reinsurance program to begin in plan year 2021, followed by a transition to the “Georgia Access” model beginning in plan year 2022. Both components of the waiver application would extend through plan year 2025.
After several years with four carriers participating in their ACA individual market, the Peach State is gaining not one but two additional carriers this year: CareSource and Oscar are joining Alliant, Ambetter/Centene, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser.
Today, however, CMS has posted the final/approved rate changes, and three of the four carriers already on the Georgia market (Alliant, Ambetter/Centene and Kaiser) are looking at slightly lower rates than they had requested. The fourth, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is bumping up their rates by an additional percentage point. Overall, Georgia carriers are dropping unsubsidized premiums by 0.9%.
A few weeks ago, I posted a lengthy, in-the-weeds explainer about how the ACA's Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision works. The short version is that ever since the ACA went into effect in 2011 (3 years before newly-sold policies had to be ACA compliant), to help reduce price gouging, insurance carriers have been required to spend a minimum of 80% of their premium revenue (85% for the large group market) on actual medical claims.
Put another way, their gross margins are limited to no more than 20% (or 15% in the large group market). Remember, that's their gross margin, not net; all operational expenses must come out of that 20% (15%). The idea is that they should be spending as much of your premium dollars as possible on actual healthcare, as opposed to junkets to Tahiti or marble staircases in the corporate offices, etc. Anything over that 20% (15%) gross margin has to be rebated to the policyholder.
After several years with four carriers participating in their ACA individual market, the Peach State is gaining not one but two additional carriers this year: CareSource and Oscar are joining Alliant, Ambetter/Centene, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser. Unlike a lot of the states I've crunched numbers for recently, I was able to acquire hard enrollment numbers for every single Georgia carrier...including both the Individual and Small Group markets, which is a rarity this year!
Statewide, GA's individual market carriers are requesting average unsubsidized 2020 rate hikes of just 2.4%, while the small group carriers are looking for a 12.8% average increase:
Long-time readers of this site may remember that I have a "special place" in my heart (more like in the pit of my stomach) for Ralph Hudgens, the now-former Georgia state Insurance Commissioner, ever since I read about this ugly incident way back in 2013:
“Let me tell you what we’re doing (about ObamaCare),” Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens bragged to a crowd of fellow Republicans in Floyd County earlier this month: “Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”
After pausing to let applause roll over him, a grinning Hudgens went on to give an example of that obstructionist behavior, this one involving so-called “navigators” who are being hired to guide customers through the process of buying health insurance on marketplaces, or exchanges, set up under the federal program.
UPDATE: It's been pointed out that the Supreme Court has ruled that minors can't receive the death penalty, so I guess that means "only" life in prison for them. If they're 18 or older, however...
On the other hand, several people have noted that an 11-year old pelvis isn't generally developed enough to even deliver a baby safely, along with other health risks, so it could very well be a death sentence regardless, so I'm leaving the headline as is.
Gov. Brian Kemp will ask the Georgia Legislature and the federal government for flexibility to improve access to government-funded health insurance for the state’s poor and middle class.
His administration told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that it will back a measure that seeks two separate federal “waivers” to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act to tailor new programs to Georgia’s needs.
This sounds potentially promising, but...
...The ACA waiver, which he outlined on the campaign trail, aims to stop premiums on the health insurance exchange market from rising so fast. A second push, which emerged after his election, would raise the possibility of a partial expansion of Medicaid to some of Georgia’s poorest residents.
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 yet. 2019 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