The floodgates are now officially open for preliminary (not final) 2020 ACA rate filings for both the Individual and Small Group markets. There are several states which only have a single insurance carrier offering policies on the Individual Market, which makes it very easy to calculate the weighted average rate changes...seeing how a single carrier holds 100% of the market.
Among these states are Alaska, Nebraska and Wyoming, where the sole Indy Market carriers are once again Premera BCBS (AK), Medica (NE) and BCBS of Wyoming. Unfortunately, the rate filing forms for all three are partly redacted, making it impossible for me to determine how many total enrollees they have, although I have a pretty good estimate of the on-exchange number as of the end of March for each.
In Alaska, Premera's 2020 rates are virtually unchanged year over year. In Nebraska, Medica expects to reduce rates an average of 5.3%. And in Wyoming, BCBS is only looking to bump up average unsubsidized premiums by 1.6%.
I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.
Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these.
Nebraska has a slightly confusing siutation, which is surprising since Medica is the only carrier offering ACA policies in the state, When I first took a look at the requested premium changes for 2019 back in August, it looked like the average was around 1.0%...that was based on splitting the difference between the 3.69% and -2.60% listings, since the filing form was redacted and I didn't know what the relative market split was between Medica's product lines.
I just realized that while I've written quite a bit about the potential loss of Medicaid coverage for thousands of residents of Michigan, Kentucky and Arkansas over the past few months due to the new work requirement laws in those states, It's been far too long since I've given a shout-out to the four states which are hoping to add Medicaid expansion (or at least continue it, in one case) exactly one week from today.
For years, elected leaders in conservative states have resisted expanding Medicaid, the government health program for low-income Americans. Now voters in four of those states will decide the question directly.
A Lancaster County District judge has dismissed a challenge to the Medicaid expansion petition initiative, allowing the initiative to be placed on the November ballot.
The lawsuit was brought by former state Sen. Mark Christensen and Sen. Lydia Brasch. They alleged the initiative was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority, contained more than one subject, which the state Constitution prohibits, and that it failed to identify Nebraska Appleseed as a sworn sponsor.
Last week, Secretary of State John Gale confirmed that enough signatures were gathered by petition circulators to put the question of whether to expand Medicaid to about 90,000 uninsured adult Nebraskans on the Nov. 6 ballot.
...The campaign has said Medicaid expansion will create and sustain 10,000 new jobs, reduce medical bankruptcies, bring $1.1 billion of Nebraskans’ tax dollars back from Washington, D.C., and produce savings by reducing uncompensated care for those who lack health coverage.
Nebraska is about as simple as it gets--there's only one carrier offering ACA individual market plans. Unfortunately, they've redacted the combined average rate change request between their two plan entries, so all I can do is split the difference and assume around a 1% average increase.
The Urban Institute projected that Nebraska rates would see a whopping 20.4 percentage point increase due to #MandateRepeal and #ShortAssPlans, which are both referenced in Medica's filing. Since they don't get more specific than that, I'm assuming 2/3 of Urban's estimate, or a 13.6% increase.
Unsubsidized Nebraska enrollees are currently paying an average of $854/month, so if accurate, that's a difference of around $116/month or nearly $1,400 for the year. Ouch.
A couple of weeks ago, a joint letter was sent to all four Congressional leaders from AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans), the BlueCross BlueShield Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the AMA, the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitalsm warning them, in no uncertain terms, of what the consequences of repealing the individual mandate would be:
We join together to urge Congress to maintain the individual mandate. There will be serious consequences if Congress simply repeals the mandate while leaving the insurance reforms in place: millions more will be uninsured or face higher premiums, challenging their ability to access the care they need. Let’s work together on solutions that deliver the access, care, and coverage that the American people deserve.
Medica has 35,269 members on their ACA-compliant individual market plans in 2017. But all of the current Aetna enrollees, as well as off-exchange BCBSNE enrollees, will need to switch to Medica plans at the end of 2017, as Medica will be the only insurer offering plans in Nebraska’s individual market for 2018.
With Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska declining to participate in the Nebraska exchange, that leaves just Medica as the sole individual market carrier. They're asking for a 16.9% average rate hike,
Interestingly, while Medica's rate filing letter clearly states that the 16.9% request assumes CSR payments will be made and the mandate will be enforced, they also list "unprecedented uncertainty/risk inherent in the marketplace" as one of the key drivers of the increase.
Between updating the "Who could lose coverage" graphics, prepping for my town hall thing last night and updating the 2018 Rate Hike project, I've gotten way behind on my "Who's saying 'screw rate hikes, I'm just gonna bail completely next year' updates. Let's take care of that now, OK? The first three updates are courtesy of Louise Norris writing for healthinsurance.org; the fourth is vai Kimberly Leonard for the Washington Examiner:
Insurers in Idaho had to submit forms for 2018 plans by May 15, but they have until June 2 to file rates. Mountain Health CO-OP, SelectHealth, PacificSource and Blue Cross of Idaho all filed forms to continue to offer Your Health Idaho plans in 2018.
As I noted when I crunched the numbers for Texas, it's actually easier to figure out how many people would lose coverage if the ACA is repealed in non-expansion states because you can't rip away healthcare coverage from someone who you never provided it to in the first place.
A few days ago I noted that up to 50,000 South Dakota residents who previously held out at least had some hope that the state might expand Medicaid under the ACA next year have already had that hope yanked out from under them like a rug:
A proposal to expand a federal health insurance program for needy people could be off the table following the results of Tuesday's election.
The victory of Republican Donald Trump, who has called for a repeal of Obamacare, along with the increasingly conservative Republican make-up of the South Dakota state Legislature could thwart Gov. Dennis Daugaard's efforts to expand Medicaid in the state.
Today (Friday, Sept. 23) happens to be the deadline for insurance carriers to sign agreements with the federal government for participating in the exchange this Open Enrollment period (I'm not sure if today's deadline also applies to the state-based exchanges or not; they might be different). Until today, it looked as though there were going to be 3 carriers offering individual policies on the Nebraska exchange:
The figures compared 2016 and 2017 rates for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Aetna Health Inc. and Medica, the three companies that will offer policies to Nebraskans on the exchange when open enrollment starts Nov. 1.
However, as commenter M E noted, it looks like BCBSNE decided to wait until literally the last minute (last hour, anyway) to change their minds:
Huh. Back in June, when I first ran the requested rate hike numbers for Nebraska, it looked as though there were only two real carriers offering individual plans, either on or off the exchange: Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medica. UnitedHealthcare announced they were leaving NE along with a bunch of other states, and Coventry (aka Aetna) didn't have any filings for 2017, so I assumed they were bailing as well. Finally, the less time spent talking about "Enterprise/Freedom Life" the better. So...it looked like BCBS and Medica were it. Here's what the table looked like:
Hmmm...last year Nebraska had 5 carriers offering individual policies, 2 of which were actually divisions of the same company (UnitedHealthcare). Since United is pulling out of Nebraska, this leaves only three companies...one of which is the mysterious "Freedom Life Insurance Co." which keeps popping up in numerous states as not having a single actual enrollee, and almost always asking for the exact same rate hike: 17.37%. What's up with that?
Anyway, Coventry (actually Aetna) appears to also be gone next year as well...or perhaps they simply haven't submitted their rate filings yet? I suspect the latter because Nebraska's total individual market was over 110,000 people as of 2014, and is likely up to over 130K this year (nearly 88,000 enrolled via the ACA exchange alone this year)...yet adding up the numbers from the official filings only totals around 30,000 people.