Oy vey iz mir. Last fall, half of the two dozen Co-Ops created by the ACA were wiped out, falling like dominos over about a two month period, for a variety of reasons including the Risk Corridor Massacre. The other half managed to survive The Purge, many of them just barely doing so.
This year, it looks very much like the Risk Adjustment debacle has decided to try and finish off the job.
Oregon was the second state to publicly announce the rate changes their carriers are requesting for the 2017 individual and small group markets. The overall weighted average request on the individual market side came in at a requested 27.5% increase, while the small group market requests had an average increase of just 1% overall (I didn't weight the small group enrollment numbers at the time, but have done so below).
A few weeks ago, I got a heads up that Virginia was the first state out of the gate with their 2017 Rate Request filings. There were some confusing numbers which took awhile to sort out, but once the dust settled, the overall weighted average rate hike requests for Virginia's entire ACA-compliant individual market came in at around 17.9%.
Some states make it next to impossible to track down this info. Others hand it to you on a silver plate. And then there are states like Oregon, who provide the average rate hike requests in a simple, easy format, but don't necessarily include the market share of those companies, making it difficult to compile a weighted average:
Back in January I noted that Moda Health Plans, which had plenty of self-inflicted wounds in addition to being kneecapped by the Risk Corridor Massacre, was dropping out of the Oregon exchange and likely the Alaska exchange as well, so today's news isn't a big surprise.
The individual market in Alaska has just two carriers in 2016: Moda and Premera. Both have struggled with significant losses under the ACA, and Moda nearly exited the Alaska market altogether in late January (more details below).
Oregon is considering proposals by four companies to provide a new software platform for the state’s health insurance marketplace.
The state uses the federal insurance exchange, http://www.Healthcare.gov, and state officials began to explore other options after the federal government decided to begin charging insurance companies a fee to use the exchange in Oregon.
Oregon has used the federal platform since its own insurance portal, Cover Oregon, failed to launch in 2013. The state and technology company Oracle, which built the Cover Oregon system, are still engaged in a legal battle over who is to blame for the problems.
Remember how the Risk Corridor program was put in place specifically to help guide insurance carriers through the rocky, turbulent, confusing waters of the early years of the ACA exchanges by mitigating massive premium rate miscalculations the first few by having carriers which did better than expected chip into a kitty to be passed out to those which missed the target for the first 3 years?
Remember how the carriers which lost money the first year were really, really counting on those Risk Corridor funds to be there to help cushion the blow?
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.
That's 2 in one day, the 8th to fold to date and the 4th one which can be specifically connected the Risk Corridor Disaster:
Health Republic Insurance Not Offering Plans in 2016
Lake Oswego, Ore. (Oct. 16, 2015) –Health Republic Insurance, a non-profit health insurance carrier, announced today that it will not offer small group or individual plans on or off exchange in 2016. All current Health Republic individual and small group policies remain in full effect through the end of 2015. Members can continue to see plan providers and claims will be paid under plan terms.
The federal government recently announced it would pay insurance companies only 12.6% of their risk corridor receivable for the 2014 plan year and has created industry-wide concern about when, or if the 2015 risk corridor would be paid.
This AP article provides snippets about a handful of states; it'd be nice if they just released the actual report so we could see the hard expansion numbers (as opposed to the total increase numbers, which are still obviously useful but don't distinguish between traditional Medicaid and ACA expansion enrollees):
In Kentucky, for example, enrollments during the 2014 fiscal year were more than double the number projected, with almost 311,000 newly eligible residents signing up. That's greater than what was initially predicted through 2021.
...At least 14 states have seen new enrollments exceed their original projections, causing at least seven to increase their cost estimates for 2017, according to an Associated Press analysis of state budget projections, Medicaid enrollments and cost details in the expansion states. A few states said they could not provide original projections.
Also hot off the presses, Nick Budnick at the Oregonian reports that OR is the first state to approve final 2016 individual market policy rates. Since Oregon is not allowing "transitional" policies for 2016 (they gave a 1 year extension vs. the 2-3 that some states allowed), this should apply to all individual policies state-wide (as well as small group policies):
More than 220,000 Oregonians who buy their own health insurance will face higher premiums next year, and Portlanders could see some of the biggest hikes in the country.
State regulators have announced the 2016 rates for people who aren't covered by their employers or government programs.
The overall news is not good for consumers. Some insurers had asked the state to approve rates similar to last year's lowest. But many insurers lost money from unexpectedly high costs, so officials proposed raising many rates in preliminary decisions two weeks ago. The final decisions issued Wednesday resulted in a slightly better range of options for consumer.
At the time, and since then, I've posted a whole bunch of stuff regarding the importance of keeping calm about these initial rate requests for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that none of the initial requests had actually been approved yet. Last year, many large rate increase requests were denied nationally, with only more modest increases being approved by state regulators, and the same is likely to happen in many cases this year.
THIS REMAINS LIKELY TO BE THE CASE OVERALL. However, there's another possibility which, while I always knew was possible, I wasn't aware of actually having happened until today:
OK, I admit this caught me by surprise; last year the first following-year rate increase requests didn't start popping up in the major media until late May (or perhaps they did but I didn't happen to notice until then). My first entry on the subject wasn't until May 17, 2014.
This year, the first state out of the gate with the proposed rate changes is Oregon. There's a reason why I'm emphasizing "requested" and "proposed" here...because it's very important for people to understand that in most states, anyway, the state insurance commissioner can veto rate increases which are out of line. An insurance company can ask for a 10,000% increase...that doesn't mean they're gonna get it.
The numbers are in: It appears that Oregon consumers were fairly price sensitive when it came to choosing health plans this year.
LifeWise had the lowest rates, at $222 a month for a 40-year-old Portlander on a silver plan. Probably not coincidentally, it more than doubled its individual membership in plans that comply with Affordable Care Act guidelines.
As of March 31, LifeWise has nearly 37,000 members in ACA-compliant plans, up from 4,735 last year, according to the Oregon Insurance Division.
The article goes on to tally every single one of Oregon's individual policy QHP enrollees. The bad news is that they don't break them out by exchange vs. off-exchange. The good news is that they specifically clarify that these are all ACA compliant policies (ie, no "grandfathered" or "transitional" numbers included):
Since the 2015 Open Enrollment Period began, in addition to the weekly HC.gov "snapshot" reports which gave state-by-state breakouts of exchange-based private policy enrollments, the Oregon Insurance Division has also been tracking and reporting the number at their site...along with off-exchange (direct) QHP policies. As the only state reporting the off-exchange data on a regular basis, OR has become the only hard source I have for this number (other states like Washington, Florida and Louisiana report off-exchange data as well, but only on a quarterly or annual basis).
Their exchange-based data has always lagged slightly behind the HC.gov number, partly because the thru-dates don't match up and partly because at least one of the insurance companies in Oregon only reports paid enrollments instead of plans selected. Still, with the final week or two of HC.gov data missing at the moment, this is a handy estimate of how things played out in the final "overtime" enrollment week:
Members enrolled, Nov. 15-Feb. 22
On Healthcare.gov 113,219
Outside of Healthcare.gov 102,232
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.