Michigan

Health Insurance Town Halls Offered to Michigan Consumers with Questions about Open Enrollment 

Thousands of Michiganders have lost health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) is offering virtual town hall events to help answer questions about open enrollment on the Health Insurance Marketplace, which runs until Dec. 15.  

These live online town hall meetings are part of a series of events that will help consumers learn and ask questions about signing up for a health plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace. To attend a virtual town hall event, click the event link at its start time. Instructions for attendees are available and explain how to join an event and ask questions. 

Event Information: 

Over at Xpostfactoid, my colleague Andrew Sprung has been doing a great job of tracking ACA Medicaid expansion enrollment growth since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this past February/March at the macro (national) level, by looking at around a dozen states which have monthly reports available. He puts the overall enrollment growth rate at 23.6% from February thorugh October 2020.

Instead of replicating his work, I decided to take a closer look at individual states, starting with my own: Michigan. The graph below shows how many Michiganders have been actively enrolled in our Medicaid expansion program (Healthy Michigan) every month since it was launched in April 2014 (we had a 3-month delay in the program due to the state legislature refusing to implement the new law with immediate effect; I have no idea why):

October 12, 2020:

LANSING – Emergency orders Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act are struck down, effective immediately, the Michigan Supreme Court said Monday in a 4-3 order that added an exclamation mark to an Oct. 2 ruling.

...Monday's Supreme Court ruling is in response to a lawsuit brought by the Michigan Legislature. The Oct. 2 ruling, which was a 4-3 decision striking down the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, was in response to questions sent to the court by a federal judge handling a lawsuit brought by medical service providers in western Michigan.

Monday's ruling means hundreds of thousands of Michiganders could lose their unemployment benefits "in a matter of days," Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said. Among the orders struck down, and not replaced by a health department order, is one that extended Michigan unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, up from 20.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, hailed the ruling.

Way back in July (a lifetime ago!), Michigan's Dept. of Financial Services posted the state's preliminary 2021 individual & small group rate filings. At the time, the average premium changes being asked for were around a 1.3% increase on the individual market and 1.4% on the small group market.

Last week, a few days ahead of the launch of the 2021 Open Enrollment Period, they posted the approved 2021 rates...and there's almost no changes at all. The only significant change was to Meridian's request, which was dropped from a 2.7% increase to a 5.6% decrease. Also, National Health Insurance dropped out of the Small Group market, but they don't appear to have anyone enrolled this year anyway:

10/29/20: SEE UPDATE BELOW.

A month ago, incumbent Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan and his Republican challenger John James were both interviewed as part of a Detroit Regional Chamber series on several issues, including healthcare policy and the ACA.

As I noted at the time:

Nolan Finley is the conservative editorial page editor of The Detroit News.

On July 29th, he tweeted this out in response to criticism of the COVID-19 policy recommendations by himself and Michigan Republican legislative leadership:

Florida 20 million population, 6100 deaths. Michigan 10 million population, 6400 deaths. https://t.co/O1tNoyWwB0

— Nolan Finley (@NolanFinleyDN) July 29, 2020

That was late July.

Let's take a look at mid-October, shall we?

Here's a graph of official COVID-19 positive test cases and fatalities per capita for both Michigan and Florida. Cases are per 1,000 residents; deaths are per 10,000 in order to make the trendlines more visible:

 

This morning, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and his Republican opponent, John James, were interviewed online by Nolan Finley of the Detroit News and Stephen Henderson of DPTV & WDET. Here's the verbaitm transcripts of each of their healthcare/ACA Q&A sections, Peters first:

HENDERSON: "One of the things which has been made really manifest during the COVID-19 pandemic is the weakness of our healthcare system. We're now coming up on about a decade of life under the Affordable Care Act, which of course expanded access to insurance and made some other changes, but there are still obviously a lot of inefficincies...there are a lot of insufficiencies.

Give us an idea of what you would support in terms of changes to the healthcare system, changes to the Affordable Care Act, to get more people covered at lower costs and make the system work better."

Nolan Finley is the conservative editorial page editor of The Detroit News.

On July 29th, he tweeted this out in response to criticism of the COVID-19 policy recommendations by himself and Michigan Republican legislative leadership:

Florida 20 million population, 6100 deaths. Michigan 10 million population, 6400 deaths. https://t.co/O1tNoyWwB0

— Nolan Finley (@NolanFinleyDN) July 29, 2020

Let's take a look at the data, shall we? Here's a graph of official COVID-19 positive test cases and fatalities per capita for both Michigan and Florida. Cases are per 1,000 residents; deaths are per 10,000 in order to make the trendlines more visible:

Nolan Finley is the conservative editorial page editor of The Detroit News.

Two weeks ago, he tweeted this out in response to criticism of the COVID-19 policy recommendations by himself and Michigan Republican legislative leadership:

Florida 20 million population, 6100 deaths. Michigan 10 million population, 6400 deaths. https://t.co/O1tNoyWwB0

— Nolan Finley (@NolanFinleyDN) July 29, 2020

Let's take a look at the data, shall we? Here's a graph of official COVID-19 positive test cases and fatalities per capita for both Michigan and Florida. Cases are per 1,000 residents; deaths are per 10,000 in order to make the trendlines more visible:

Michigan is the 8th state (by my count) where the insurance carriers have posted their preliminary 2021 premium rate change filings. Every year brings some new twist (in 2018 it was CSR reimbursement payments being cut off; in 2019 it was the zeroing out of the ACA's federal individual mandate penalty; in 2020 it was sort of the repeal of the ACA's health insurer tax (HIT), although that didn't actually happen until after 2020 premiums had already been locked in; and for 2021...it's the COVID-19 pandemic, of course.

I've therefore added a new column for my weighted average rate change spreadsheets. So far only a handful of carriers have tacked on any substantial rate changes due to expected cost increases from testing & treatment of COVID-19 next year...the general rule of thumb seems to be that the added costs are pretty much gonna be cancelled out by reduced claims from non-COVID healthcare services (delayed/cancelled treatments/procedures, etc).

As a follow-up to my prior posts about the urban/rural divide of how COVID-19 has spread throughout Michigan, here's a graph which shows how it's spread in Detroit, the larger Metro Detroit area and the rest of the state on a per capita basis over time.

Obviously the probem is still far worse in Detroit and the Metro Detroit area overall...but the case trendlines are starting to flatten in Detroit and Metro Detroit, while it's still increasing at the same rate or higher in the rest of the state.

A few weeks ago, I posted a detailed analysis of how the COVID-19 virus has been spreading throughout my home state of Michigan. I noted that while the outbreak originally spread quickly in Detroit and the more densely-populated Metropolitan Detroit region (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties), that has gradually changed over time, with the virus spreading to the rest of the state--including rural, conservative-leaning areas--at a faster rate while it slowed down in the urban areas.

It's time to check in to see whether that trend has continued...and sure enough, it has:

For the past month, I've spent an awful lot of time tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities on a state-by-state level. I'm obviously not the only one doing this; there's literally dozens of other much more respected and capable organizations and websites doing so, and in fact my data originally comes from several of those sources (primarily Worldometers and the COVID Tracking Project).

I have, however, included a few extra data points which some sites haven't in order to add some perspective:

via a press release from the Michigan Dept. of Insurance & Financial Services:

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) announced that the state has received agreements from nearly all of the state’s health insurance companies to waive cost-sharing, including copays, deductibles, and coinsurance for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and treatments. The Whitmer Administration and DIFS had worked with insurers to waive these costs.

“Michiganders that are fighting for their lives should not have the extra burden of fighting with their health insurer to cover the costs of their care,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I am thankful that health insurers agreed to cover Michiganders’ coinsurance, deductibles, and copays as we fight this virus. It’s going to take all of us doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. We will get through this together” 

Consumers with these individual and group health plans will not be charged cost-sharing for coronavirus-related medical treatment, such as primary care visits, laboratory testing, emergency room visits, ambulance services, and FDA-approved medications and vaccines for COVID-19 when they become available. 

via a bulletin from Michgan's State Emergency Operations Center:

Healthcare Coverage Available to Michiganders who Lose Job or Experience a Drop in Income

LANSING, MICH. Michiganders who lose a job, resulting in a loss of their healthcare coverage or a change in income, may have low or no-cost healthcare options available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Consumers in these situations are not required to wait for the yearly Open Enrollment Period and should act now.

“Michiganders who lose employer-based health insurance may have options to continue or replace their coverage,” said DIFS Director Anita G. Fox. “If consumers have questions about enrolling, DIFS is available to assist.”

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