Washington State

A couple of weeks ago I reported that the Washington Health Benefit Exchange had enrolled over 196,000 people in ACA exchange policies as of November 28th, putting them about 3% ahead of last year's tally as of the same date.

Today they issued another unofficial update which pegs their total at "more than 200,000 Washingtonians" (there's no exact number provided):

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is alerting all customers today that less than 72 hours remain before the deadline to sign up in 2019 health and dental coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder. Customers who have not yet selected a plan have until the close of open enrollment at 11:59 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 15 to select their coverage for next year.

A couple of weeks ago I reported that the Washington Health Benefit Exchange reported enrolling a seemingingly astonishing 190,000 people into 2019 policies in just the first 10 days of the 2019 Open Enrollment Period. This is highly misleading, of course, because only a small fraction of these are new enrollees, and a somewhat larger portion are current enrollees actively renewing their policies.

The vast bulk of that 190K are current enrollees who are auto-renewed into 2019 policies by the exchange itself...with the option to then actively go into the system and opt to cancel their renewals if they wish. There's nothing wrong with this, and in fact more and more of the state exchanges seem to be doing it this way as they improve and streamline their software (I've confirmed that Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington State are "front-loading" autorenewals this year, although Maryland hasn't actually reported their data yet).

Last year, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange reported enrolling roughly 4,500 new ACA exchange enrollees in the first 8 days, which was a whopping 53% increase over 2017. This was in addition to what I estimated was roughly 13,000 current enrollees actively renewing their existing policies or switching to a different one, for a total of perhaps 17,500 QHP selections.

This year, the WA exchange hasn't posted any official press release yet, but the Seattle Times claims that they've already enrolled over 190,000 people:

Despite changes to the Affordable Care Act during the past couple of years, local health-insurance officials are optimistic that the state’s health-insurance exchange will flourish in 2019.

Since enrollment for 2019 began Nov. 1, about 190,000 people have signed up for health insurance through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which is about 5 percent more than the same period last year.

OK, this is a pretty minor update, but in the interest of completeness I should post it.

In mid-September, the Washington State insurance commissioner posted the approved 2019 average ACA individual market premium changes for carriers statewide, coming in at 13.8% overall.

The only problem is that the report only included the seven on-exchange ACA market carriers. The four carriers which offer off-exchange policies (which are pretty much identical and are part of the same risk pool, but don't qualify for tax credits) weren't included. They make up roughly 23% of Washington State's total individual market.

Today, just a few days before Open Enrollment begins, the WA Insurance Commissioner posted the complete approved rate change information. The overall average has dropped slightly, to 13.6%:

Eleven insurers approved to sell 74 plans in Washington's 2019 individual market
13.57 percent average rate increase approved

October 29, 2018

 Back in June, Washington State delivered the bad news: They were expecting 2019 ACA-compliant premiums to increase by another 19.1% (due primarily to this year's sabotage of the law by Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans) on top of this year's 36% increase (10 points of which was due specifically to Trump's CSR reimbursement cut-off).

Today, Washington insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler announced the approved 2019 premium changes, and while the news certainly isn't great, it's not quite as bad as expected earlier this summer:

It's been awhile since I last updated my "ACA Protection Spreadsheet", which is an attempt to track a whole mess of bills designed to protect the Affordable Care Act from sabotage at the federal level by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans. My last update was over a month ago, when Hawaii's Governor signed a law which locks in several ACA protections, including:

  • Ensure that young adults can continue to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26
  • Prohibit insurers from using applicants’ gender to set premiums
  • Prohibit insurers from rejecting an application based on an applicant’s medical history, or imposing coverage exclusions based on pre-existing conditions.

Today, however, there were major developments regarding #ShortAssPlan restrictions (and a few other important patient protection bills) in three states: Two positive, one negative.

CALIFORNIA:

The good news? As I reported a week or so ago, every county in Washington State will have at least one carrier on the ACA exchange next year.

The bad news? As expected, thanks in large part to sabotage of the ACA by Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, the average requested 2019 premium increase for unsubsidized enrollees is 19.1%:

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Eleven health insurers filed 74 health plans for Washington state’s 2019 individual and family health insurance market, with an average proposed rate increase of 19.08 percent. There are no bare counties, although 14 counties will have only one insurer selling through Washington’s Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. 

This just in from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner's office...

Eleven health insurers file for 2019 individual market: No bare counties

May 25, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Eleven health insurers filed 88 health plans for Washington state’s individual market yesterday, and all 39 counties will be covered in 2019.

The proposed rate changes are not public until 10 days after the OIC has determined the filings are complete. Release of the proposed rate changes is targeted for June 4. 

“We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing consumers in every county who need coverage will have access to a health plan in 2019,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “Obviously, how much premiums may change and any increases to out-of-pocket costs are still key concerns, but I’m grateful that we can assure people that coverage is available, regardless of where they live.” 

OK, this is kind of beating a dead horse since the Alexander-Collins bill is dead anyway, but just for completeness sake:

Last week I pointed out that aside from everything else that's problematic about the abortion restriction language included in the A-C bill, it would also have run into a big legal problem because three states (California, New York and Oregon) legally mandate that major medical healthcare policys cover abortion, in direct opposition to the A-C provision which would deny federal subsidies, CSR assistance or reinsurance funds to...any healthcare policy which covers abortion.

Well, today I can add a fourth state to this list:

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a measure that requires Washington insurers offering maternity care to also cover elective abortions and contraception.

Over a month ago I posted what I assumed was the final 2018 Open Enrollment Report from the Washington HealthPlan Finder. However, it appears that was just a partial report. Today they announced the official version:

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that 209,802 customers used Washington Healthplanfinder to purchase a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) for 2018 coverage during the most recent open enrollment period. This total is a nearly three percent increase over last year and is 50 percent higher than the number of enrollees recorded following the first open enrollment period in 2014.

 

I honestly can't make heads or tails out of what, exactly, the just-passed HB2516 from the Washington State legislature actually does, but the WA Health Benefit Exchange seems to be pretty happy about whatever it is:

Today, Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, issued the following statement on the signing of House Bill 2516: 

“The Washington Health Benefit Exchange applauds today’s signing of House Bill 2516 by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“This state-level legislation protects important progress made in Washington state under the Affordable Care Act. Our position as the state’s health insurance gateway is now stronger than ever, and despite continued uncertainty we may see at the federal level, this bill enables us to continue improving the customer experience for the people in our state.

I should note up front that despite the snarky headline, this is actually good news on the whole, and Premera does deserve some credit for it since part of the $250 million they refer to below is voluntary on their part.

Premera Blue Cross, the sole carrier offering ACA exchange individual market policies throughout the entire state of Alaska, and one of the major carriers on the indy market in Washington State, posted this press release today:

Premera Announces $250 Million Investment In Customers and Community

Mountlake Terrace, Wash. — (March 12, 2018) — Premera Blue Cross, a leading health plan in the Pacific Northwest, today announced $250 million in investments over five years across Washington and Alaska to help stabilize the individual market, improve access to care in rural areas and support local communities in their efforts to address the behavioral health issues impacting their residents.

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has decided to shut down Donald Trump's #ShortAssPlans executive order before it starts infecting the Evergreen State (yes, that's their official nickname...I looked it up):

Kreidler announces intention to being rulemaking on short-term medical plans

March 6, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced his intention today to begin rule-making to create protections for Washington consumers who buy short-term medical plans. He is taking this action in response to the recent rules the Trump administration proposed to increase the duration of short-term medical plans from 90 days to up to 364 days.

In a statement last week, Kreidler shared his concerns about short-term medical plans:

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.

The type of demographic data available varies greatly from state to state, but a major data point available from all six of them also happens to be one of the more interesting points, especially this year, given the " CSR Silver Loading" gambit available in most states this year.

Look what I dug up on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website!

That's right...it's time for another state-level Datapalooza!® The first two slides come from the Feb. 2nd board meeting Open Enrollment Report; the rest come from the "Open Enrollment For 2018 Plan Year Performance Dashboard" report, which is a bit different; it actually runs through January 26th instead of January 14th for whatever reason. so some of the numbers are slightly different.

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