Last week, Bernie Sanders posted the following video (click to view) on Twitter. It tells the tragic story of a young Minnesota man named Alec Smith with diabetes who died soon after after no longer being able to afford either health insurance or the insulin and other medical supplies needed to keep him alive:
Alec Smith died at 26 because he was rationing insulin that was too expensive. The greed of the pharmaceutical industry is killing Americans and it has got to stop. (with @NSmithholt12) pic.twitter.com/xmryYm0Enr
The main point of the video is the horrific price gouging on insulin, and a new drug price control bill which Sen. Sanders is pushing for which would tie U.S. drug pricing to that of a half-dozen other countries.
It's a genuinely depressing story, and the proposed drug pricing bill is interesting and worthy of discussion.
More than 97,000 Minnesotans have signed up for private health plans through MNsure since the start of open enrollment
Open enrollment runs until January 13, 2019
ST. PAUL, Minn.—Today MNsure announced that over 97,000 Minnesotans have signed up for private health plan coverage through MNsure during the first two weeks of open enrollment.
MNsure's open enrollment runs until January 13, 2019. For coverage that begins January 1, 2019, Minnesotans must enroll by December 15, 2018.
“We are excited with our smooth start to open enrollment and that over 97,000 Minnesotans have signed up for private health plans,” said CEO Nate Clark. “With rates decreasing from 7 to 27 percent across the state, we encourage Minnesotans to visit MNsure.org to see if they can save.”
MNsure Update on First Week of Open Enrollment
November 8, 2018
ST. PAUL, Minn.—MNsure CEO, Nate Clark, issued the following statement recapping the first full week of open enrollment:
“This year’s open enrollment continues to go smoothly with consistently low wait times throughout the first week. With lower rates across the state, we have seen a steady stream of Minnesotans signing up for health coverage. We encourage Minnesotans to visit MNsure.org to see if they are eligible for exclusive tax credits that could lower their monthly premiums.”
This year to date, MNsure has renewed more people into coverage than ever before.Open enrollment figures will be released next Wednesday (11/14) at MNsure’s public board meeting at 1 p.m.
ST. PAUL, Minn.— MNsure is reminding Minnesotans that are currently enrolled in a private health plan through MNsure that they have the option of renewing into the same plan or selecting a new plan during the upcoming open enrollment period beginning November 1. With rates declining across the state from 7 to 27 percent, MNsure recommends that private health plan enrollees use our new comparison tool to find a plan that fits their needs.
Below is a brief guide to assist consumers with coverage options this open enrollment:
Minnesota, currently entering their second year of their official reinsurance waiver program to help keep unsubsidized premiums down, announced their preliminary 2019 rate hikes way back in June. At the time, the carriers were looking at roughly an 8% average reduction in rates next year...although they would be dropping prices by more like 15% if not for the ACA's individual mandate being repealed and the expansion of #ShortAssPlans.
Today the Minnesota Dept. of Commerce posted the approved 2019 premium changes, and there's been some dramatic reductionsfor three of the five carriers offering policies in the state. Group Health and Medica were approved as is, but Blue Plus was told to drop their rates a whopping 27.7% instead of the 11.8% they were planning on. Ucare was shaved down from a 7 point reduction to 10 points, and PreferredOne (which only sells individual market policies off-exchange and only has 300 enrollees anyway) was knocked down from a 3-point reduction to 11 points.
MNsure again giving Minnesotans more time to shop for health coverage for 2019
Minnesotans will have an extra month to shop for coverage again this year
ST. PAUL, MN--Today MNsure announced the dates during which Minnesotans will have time to shop for 2019 health coverage. Open enrollment will begin on Nov. 1, 2018, and run through Jan. 13, 2019. This is nearly a month longer than the federal open enrollment period that runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. As a state-based marketplace, MNsure has authority to supplement the upcoming federal open enrollment period with a special enrollment period to give Minnesotans more time to shop.
"Shopping for health coverage is a complex process, and Minnesotans rely on the free in-person assistance offered by MNsure’s assister network," said acting CEO Nate Clark. "This year our assisters face additional challenges given the amount of change coming to Minnesota’s Medicare plans. The extra time to shop will ensure that all MNsure consumers who need it will get that vital assistance."
Well this is a nice surprise! Yesterday the Minnesota ACA exchange, MNsure, issued a press release a day ahead of the public posting of requested 2019 individual market insurance rate changes, advising people of the various ways they have to keep their premiums down via ACA tax credits, shopping around and so forth. I was immediately concerned that they might know something I didn't...perhaps they were expecting a batch of double-digit rate hikes as has happened in so many other states the past few years?
Private insurance companies set premium prices, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce regulates those companies. Final, approved 2019 premium rates will be available by October 2, and the 2019 open enrollment period begins on November 1. Minnesotans shopping for health insurance through the individual market may be able to reduce premium costs in three ways:
1. See if you are eligible for tax credits only available through MNsure
The Basic Health Program is one of the more obscure provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Very few people outside of the healthcare wonk community know anything about it...unless they live in Minnesota or New York State.
The short version is that it's an optional low-income healthcare program designed for people at the income tier just above Medicaid expansion...138% - 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, or between around $16,600 - $24,100/year for a single adult. In most states people in that income range would be expected to enroll in heavily-subsidized ACA exchange policies. In New York and Minnesota, however, they've instead set up Basic Health Programs (BHPs) for this population instead.
Positive Blue Cross results trigger rebates to consumers
It is legally required to return about $30 million of its 2017 profit to subscribers.
After three years of losses in the state’s market where individuals buy health insurance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota made so much money last year that it has to give some back.
The Eagan-based carrier, which is the state’s largest nonprofit health plan, disclosed last week that it expects to provide $30 million in consumer rebates as required by rules in the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Analysts said that Blue Cross likely isn’t alone in having overshot with rates last year, since insurers across the country have been struggling to figure out how much premium revenue they need to cover the cost of medical bills in the individual market.
In Minnesota, rebates driven by big margins are a surprising cap to a year that started with fears that mounting losses would cause a market collapse.
Minnesota's 2018 Open Enrollment Period was a month longer than the official half-length period pushed by HealthCare.Gov, but was still over 2 weeks shorter than it had been in prior years, ending on January 14th, 2018. Even so, they reported a slight increase in year-over-year policy enrollees, ending OE5 with 116,358 QHP selections.
Typically, you'd see the official QHP selection number drop off noticeably by the end of the first quarter...usually by around 13% or so. Roughly 10% of those who select policies don't ever actually pay for their first monthly premium, and another 2-3% generally drop off after only paying for the first couple of months.
Now that the 2018 Open Enrollment period is officially over in every state +DC, I've started compiling more detailed demographic breakouts of the data on a state-by-state basis. The official CMS report from the Assistant Secretary for Planning & Evaluation (ASPE) report should be released at some point in the next couple of weeks, but until then, I'll have to settle for whatever reports I can patch together from some of the state-based exchanges.
So far I've dug up final (or near final) data for six states: Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State. Collectively, these states only represent about 890,000 2018 exchange enrollees, or roughly 7.5% of the 11.8 million total, so I have no idea how representative they are nationally, but it's all I have to work with for the moment.
If you look at The Graph for the 2018 Open Enrollment Period, you'll notice that in addition to the large green section (Qualified Health Plan (QHP) selections across the 39 Healthcare.Gov states) and the smaller blue section (QHP selections across the 12 State-based exchanges), there's a much smaller burgundy slice at the top labelled "BHPs (MN/NY only). This represents around 820,000 people in Minnesota and New York only who are enrolled in Basic Health Plans, or BHPs.
MNsure ends open enrollment with record number of signups
116,358 Minnesotans enrolled in private health plans through MNsure for 2018 health coverage
ST. PAUL, Minn.—Today MNsure announced that a record number of Minnesotans in the individual market signed up for health coverage through MNsure during open enrollment, breaking the previous year’s record of 114,810. Despite an open enrollment period three weeks shorter than 2017 and significant challenges stemming from the federal level, MNsure enrolled more Minnesotans than ever. Thirty percent of MNsure enrollees were new this year.
111,667 QHP selections bumps them up another 1,667, with 5 days left to go for Minnesota residents to #GetCovered for 2018. It's worth noting that enrollment in MinnesotaCare, MN's name for the ACA's Basic Health Program, has actually dropped slightly since the last hard number update I confirmed back in mid-November (93,049).