12. LEGALLY TIE MEDICARE ADVANTAGE/MANAGED MEDICAID CONTRACTS TO EXCHANGE PARTICIPATION.
Andrew Sprung, Michael Hiltzik and I have all written about this before. I have no idea whether it's even legally feasible/practical or not, but if so, it makes a lot of sense to me: Remember, many of the same carriers whning about losing hundreds of millions of dollars on the individual market are simultaneously making billions of dollars in profit off of their other divisions...which include fat federal and state contracts to manage Medicare and/or Medicaid plans. If they want to play in the managed care sandbox, make exchange participation a requirement as well. I'm not saying they should have to treat it as a loss leader--they'd still be able to raise their premiums at an actuarially responsible rate as appropriate--but they should have to at least participate.
As far as I can tell, even the amazing Louise Norris hasn't caught this one yet (and it's a month old, too!). If I'm wrong and she has done a write-up on it, of course, I'll eat my words:
Medicaid for all
Democratic [Nevada] Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle has introduced a bill, AB374, to open up the state’s Medicaid program to anyone, regardless of their income level.
Individuals would be able to purchase coverage through Medicaid on the healthcare exchange for an annual premium set at 150 percent of the median expenditure paid on behalf of Medicaid enrollees in the preceding fiscal year. Though none of the current federal or state dollars going to fund Medicaid would be used to cover any portion of the new enrollees, they would still be entitled to the same benefits provided to other Medicaid recipients.
In Nevada, , 89,000 people enrolled in exchange policies as of the end of January. Of these, I estimate around 62,000 of them would be forced off of their private policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal, plus the additional 320,000 enrolled in Medicaid expansion, for a total of 382,000 Nevadans kicked to the curb.
Last year, the average full-price rate hikes approved by state regulators tended to be several percentage points lower overall than the increases requested by carriers. This year, there's been very little of that; in most case so far, the regulators have pretty much authorized the premium rate increases as requested by carriers...and in many cases have approved higher increases than requested. As a result, the overall national averages approved have been pretty close to the requests (around 24-25% nationally).
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Health insurance costs for about 240,000 Nevadans who buy individual or small-group plans are expected to rise next year, and state officials want consumers to offer feedback before the proposed rates are locked in in coming weeks.
As regular readers know, I'm currently in the thick of my state-by-state analysis of the requested, weighted average rate changes for 2017 by insurance carriers for the entire ACA-compliant individual market. As of this writing, the overall average looks like it's just a hair over 20% across 28 states + DC.
Does the first sentence above include a lot of clarifiers? Yes, yes it does...and with good reason. I try to be very specific when I discuss this stuff, because it's very easy to get confused about what a given number is actually referring to.
For instance, a few days ago, Avalere Health released their own analysis which concludes that the average requested/proposed premium rates are around 12%. If I left it at that, you might think that either my average is 8 percentage points too high...or that Avalere's is 8 points too low.
Unlike the standard SERFF database, which is comprehensive but also can be confusing as hell, Nevada's system is simple, clean, easy to navigate and, most of all, every single carrier filing listed displays the number of current enrollees clearly.This is a huge pet peeve of mine, which is understandable given what I'm trying to do here!
OK, that said, here's what things look like in the Silver State:
This is really just a summary of my last 4 posts. I've combed through the SERFF databases for every state which uses the system for rate filings, and while very few have the actual 2017 rate filing requests listed yet, at least 4 of them have official individual market exit letters submitted for 2017 from Jane Rouse, the Product Compliance Process Owner for Humana Insurance Co:
This list may grow as additional state filing data and/or press releases come out from Humana, but assuming these are the only 4 states Humana is bailing on, the news isn't quite as bad as it appears at first.
To be clear, I'm not saying this is a good development; when you combine it with the recent UnitedHealthcare Dropout Odometer it's more of a drip-drip-drip sort of thing. But it isn't disasterous for the exchanges either (at least not yet).
UPDATE: I've been informed by a reliable source that Humana is also dropping out of the individual market in Nevada next year, although I don't have any actual enrollment data there. Humana is not currently participating on the Nevada exchange, however, so any dropped enrollments would be OFF-exchange only. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the only individual market enrollees Humana has in Nevada are grandfathered policies anyway, so the numbers should be pretty nominal there.
As anyone who's been following the ACA exchange saga over the past few years knows, the original idea was that all 50 states (+DC) would establish their own, individual healthcare exchange, including their own website/technology platform for enrolling residents in private policies (QHPs), Medicaid (supplementing or replacing whatever existing Medicaid system they already had) and small business policies (the ACA's SHOP program). In addition, each state exchange would also have their own board of directors, marketing department, support call center, fee structure for covering the cost of operations and so on.
If things had worked out that way, there would have been 51 different websites where people would enroll in ACA policies, each one independently branded.
Now, it's not the lower rate which caught my eye; the 8.7% figure only includes exchange-based carriers, of which there's only three this year, versus the dozen or so who operate throughout the state (there are 9 more insurance carriers who are only operating off of the exchange).
What I'm puzzled by is this part...which also includes some good news:
Nevada's insurance dept. rate filing website has an extremely user-friendly, interactive website which lets you drill down and find exactly what you're looking for: Individual or Small Group policies, HMO or PPO, Under Review or Reviewed. From what I can tell, there are 12 companies offering individual policies in 2016 (a 13th, the Nevada Health COOP, just announced that they've gone belly-up and are being dissolved, meaning a minimum of 16,000 Nevadans will have to switch to a different insurance carrier).
The requested rates were approved for 8 of the companies, but were reduced significantly for Aetna (from 21-24% down to 15%). Here's what it looks like in the end:
The Small Group market is faring somewhat better, with just a 5.3% overall weighted average increase:
Judge says Alaska Medicaid expansion can go ahead Tuesday
An Anchorage trial court judge Friday said that Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s administration can expand the Medicaid health care program starting next week, dismissing a request by the state Legislature to temporarily block enrollment while attorneys fully argue lawmakers’ legal challenge.
In a 45-minute opinion delivered from the bench, Pfiffner rejected a series of arguments by the Legislature that starting expanded Medicaid enrollment Tuesday was so problematic that it should be put on hold while the Legislature’s lawsuit proceeds.
The actual lawsuit will still proceed, but this is still great news for up to 40,000 Alaskans.
The impending King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision will cast an even larger shadow over the ACA over the next 2 months (the decision is expected to be announced in June), as exchanges in 6 of the 14 states running their own (State-Based Marketplaces, or SBMs) are at risk of either being abandoned, dissolved or otherwise moved over to the federally-run Healthcare.Gov exchange:
The federal government is threatening to take over Hawaii's health insurance exchange within months and has restricted grant money to support operations of the Hawaii Health Connector.
Jeff Kissel, the Connector's executive director, told lawmakers at a briefing Thursday that if the exchange created by the Affordable Care Act does not get state funding soon, the federal government will abolish Hawaii's marketplace and run it directly.
This isn't an exact apples-to-apples comparison, since the Massachusetts number includes the "overtime" extension period while the other 5 states only run through 2/15/15, but I thought it would be useful to see how the 6 exchanges which had widespread technical issues last year fared this time around. Obviously other states like Washington and California had some snafus, but these are the ones which were seriously hosed last year to the point of requiring massive overhauls or which were completely scrapped in favor of a new platform (I'm not including HC.gov itself here since everyone already knows what massive technical improvements they've made).
The chart below refers specifically to QHP selections only (whether paid or not), and compares the 2015 open enrollment period (11/15/14 - 2/15/15...or 2/26 in the case of MA) against the 2014 open enrollment period (10/1/13 - 4/19/14). I've also included some notes for context.