When Maryland insurance carriers originally submitted their proposed 2019 premium changes back in May, it looked pretty grim...they were expected to average around 29.5% statewide for the ACA-compliant individual market., increasing from around $631/month on average to roughly $817/month for unsubsidized enrollees.
Thanks to swift, bipartisan action on the part of the Democratically-controlled Maryland state legislature and the Republican Governor, Maryland was able to pass several bills which partially negated or cancelled out Trump/Congressional Republican sabotage of the Affordable Care Act. In particular, they passed laws which locked in current restrictions on both short-term plans and association health plans (the types of "junk policies" which Trump is pushing hard to expand upon)...along with an extremely robust reinsurance program.
Back in April, I started an ambitious project which set out to track every legislative or regulatory measure taken by every state to counter, cancel out or mitigate sabotage of the Affordable Care Act by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans. It resulted in this color-coded spreadsheet, which lists dozens of bills, proposals, amendments and so on at various stages of completion.
The bad news is that project has proven to be too large for me to keep up with--there's simply too many bills, too many stages and too much other stuff going on for me to keep track of it all.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma is difficult to get a read on. On the one hand, she glories in trashing the ACA every chance she gets while happily endorsing nearly every effort to undermine or sabotage it, including repeal of the individual mandate, slashing the marketing and outreach budgets and so forth. Last year she was even busted trying to (effectively) blackmail the insurance carriers at large by offering to push through CSR reimbursement payment in return for them supporting the GOP's Obamacare repeal bill.
Because Congressional Republicans repealed the ACA's Individual Mandate Penalty, carriers were planning on increasing 2019 premiums by 12.6% on average, in part to account for the adverse selection which was expected to happen next year.
However, thanks to the Democratically-controlled New Jersey state legislature and Governor swiftly reinstating the ACA individual mandate, actual 2019 rate filings are only expected to increase rates an average of 5.8%, saving the average unsubsidized indy market enrollee around $470 apiece next year.
Finally, the NJ legislature also passed, and Governor Murphy signed into law, a robust reinsurance bill which, if approved by CMS, is expected to lower unsubsidized 2019 premiums by an additional 15 percentage points, for a final 2019 average premium reduction of around 9.2%.
It's also important to understand that New Jersey's portion of the funding for the proposed reinsurance program will be coming from the revenue generated by the reinstated mandate penalty itself.
Hot on the heels of Anthem's announcement that they're significantly expanding their ACA market coverage throughout Virginia comes another piece of welcome news:
Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration will convene a new work group on Monday to consider options to stabilize soaring premiums in Virginia’s health insurance market.
The Virginia Market Stability Group will consider a wide range of options to lower insurance premiums expected to average more than $833 a month next year, making coverage unaffordable to people who don’t qualify for federal subsidies for premiums or out-of-pocket expenses in the marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.
...But one option could trump all others — a state budget plan to request a federal waiver for a “re-insurance” program in Virginia that would help defray the costs for the most expensive patients and relieve the expense for others by lowering the risk.
Hot on the heels of Wisconsin's ACA reinsurance program being approved by CMS comes another reinsurance waiver approval, this time for Maine:
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (the Departments) approved Maine’s application for a State Innovation Waiver under section 1332 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (the waiver). Maine’s application seeks to reinstate a reinsurance program called the Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association (MGARA) from 2019 through 2023. As a result of the waiver approval, more consumers in Maine may have coverage, consumers will see lower premiums, and the state will receive Federal funds to cover a substantial portion of state costs for MGARA.
Maine’s State Innovation Waiver under section 1332 of the PPACA is approved subject to the state accepting the specific terms and conditions (STCs). This approval is effective for January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2023.
Summary of Maine’s State Innovation Waiver under section 1332 of the PPACA Application
State’s Market Stability Workgroup Recommends Immediate Action to Protect Rhode Islanders from Federal Threats to Health Insurance Access and Affordability
Posted on June 27, 2018 | By HealthSource RI
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 27, 2018) – Rhode Island must act “without delay” to protect consumers from rising health coverage costs brought on by federal policy changes according to a report issued to Governor Raimondo by the state’s Market Stability Workgroup.
“People representing a wide variety of viewpoints engaged in lively discussions over the course of 8 weeks,” said Workgroup co-chair Bill Wray, Chief Risk Officer at the Washington Trust. “The fruits of those discussions are in this report. All of us – consumer advocates, business groups, health insurers and providers – were able to broadly agree on how best to protect Rhode Island’s insurance markets.”
One important twist: A few months back I remember reading that Maine, like several other states, was considering establishing some type of reinsurance program along the lines of successful programs in Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon. I also remember reading that the Maine version was unusual--it would actually involve reestablishing an old, discontinued state program which was still on the books but had been mothballed for years. However, I never got around to doing a write-up about it.
Establish a robust reinsurance program to significantly lower insurance premiums for individual market enrollees,
Protect people from out-of-network "balance billing", and
Cancel out Trump's expansion of "Association Health Plans"
In addition, New Jersey already outlawed "Short-Term Plans" (and "Surprise Billing") before the ACA was passed anyway.
Well, until today, there was some lingering doubt about the first two bills (which are connected...the reinsurance program would be partly funded by the revenue from the state-level mandate penalty), as Gov. Murphy was reportedly kind of iffy about signing them. As I understand it, he's been supportive of both ideas but is concerned about the potential budget hit in case the mandate penalty revenue doesn't raise enough to cover its share of the reinsurance program.
For a couple of months now, I've been attempting to track a slew of state-based "ACA 2.0" bills slowly winding their way through various state legislatures. However, this is really a bit of a misnomer, since some of these bills aren't so much about expanding the ACA as they are about protecting it from various types of undermining or sabotage from the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans.
Once again: The "Blue Leg" of the Stool covers everything which ACA-compliant individual health insurance carriers are required to include: Guaranteed Issue, Community Rating, 10 Essential Health Benefits, a Minimum 60% Actuarial Value rating, no Annual or Lifetime Caps on coverage, and a long list of mandatory Preventative Services at no out-of-pocket cost when done in-network.
A few days ago I noted that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan had signed a bipartisan bill into law which creates a $380 million reinsurance fund which should cancel out up to 21% of next year's looming individual market premium hikes.
However, I forgot to mention the other important thing that the same bill does: Evidently it would also head off Donald Trump's attempt to open the floodgates on the type of minimally-regulated "short-term" and "association" plans which would further damage the ACA-compliant individual market risk pool:
(C) THIS SUBTITLE APPLIES TO ANY HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN OFFERED BY AN ASSOCIATION, A PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEE ORGANIZATION, OR ANY OTHER ENTITY, INCLUDING A PLAN ISSUED UNDER THE LAWS OF ANOTHER STATE, IF THE HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN COVERS ELIGIBLE EMPLOYEES OF ONE OR MORE SMALL EMPLOYERS AND MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS OF SUBSECTION (A) OF THIS SECTION.
I've noted before that now that the Republicans in Congress have repealed the ACA's much-hated (but vitally necessary) individual mandate penalty (effective 2019), the odds of it being reinstated at the federal level are virtually zilch. Even if there's a massive blue wave in November and the Democrats are able to retake both the House and Senate, they're extremely unlikely to be willing to face the same type of firestorm/backlash that they did back in 2009-2010 over it.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed a bipartisan bill on Thursday that state officials say will help keep healthcare premiums from spiking again next year.
The bill creates what’s known as a reinsurance program for the state’s health insurance marketplace, which was created as part of the Affordable Care Act.
...Without the fix or any action in Washington, Maryland officials predicted that healthcare premiums in 2019 could jump up to 50 percent, driving more of the 150,000 people to abandon the state’s marketplace — possibly leading to its collapse.
Sens. Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins have proposed a market stabilization package that would include funding for the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing reduction subsidies for three years, three years of federal reinsurance at $10 billion a year, additional ACA waiver flexibility for states, and expanded eligibility for "copper" plans.
Alexander presented the plan yesterday to America's Health Insurance Plan's board of directors, adding that if Democratic leadership supports the bill, “it’ll be law by the end of next week." Alexander has long said the package should be included on the omnibus spending bill.