Washington State


Time: D H M S

Yesterday I posted about Healthcare.Gov's new "Rate Review" tool, and how, while it's very handy for seeing which comapanies are trying to jack up their premium rates by more than 10% next year (and allowing public comment on them), it's essentially useless for trying to calculate the overall average rate increase in a given state (or in some cases, even for a given company in that state).

I used Connecticut as an example: The actual statewide, weighted average increase request is around 7.7%, but if you only use the Rate Review database as your source it makes it look like it's over 18%.

Here's an even better example: Washington State.

Thanks to Rebecca Stob for the heads up.

On the one hand, Washington State, like Oregon, has a nifty, easy-to-use web-based searchable database for their 2016 rate request filings, yay!

On the other hand, when you get into the details, some of it can be pretty confusing stuff. In 2014, there were 8 companies approved for the WA exchange. For 2015, there were 10 companies, plus 2 more which didn't make the cut. For 2016, a total of 17 companies/subsidiaries have requested approval to sell on the individual market. There's no guarantee that all 17 will be approved to sell in the state, but I'm assuming they all will be for the time being.

There's actually 18 listings, however, because Lifewise split their policies into two entries...one of which is "grandfathered" policies only, and is therefore not relevant for the table below...although this does answer the question "how many people are sill enrolled in Grandfathered policies in Washington State?" The answer appears to be just 15,677 people...out of 343,348 total in the individual market, or only 4.5% of the total.

Earlier today I posted updated exchange enrollment numbers out of Washington State; as of 4/17, ACA exchange QHPs were up to 170,000 currently enrolled out of about 177K paid enrollments and perhaps 200K total selections.

This evening, another piece of the puzzle is filled in : OFF-exchange QHPs in WA:

The office of the state insurance commissioner estimated 170,000 people bought private insurance outside the state marketplace during the open enrollment period. That’s about the same as last year.

Well, now. After all my dead ends, that was remarkably...simple and to the point.

This Just In...

Washington Healthplanfinder Enrolls 170,000 in Qualified Health Plans; 16,000 Enroll through Spring Special Enrollment Period
Enrollment Continues for Residents with Qualifying Life Events


OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Healthplanfinder today announced that 170,101 Washingtonians have currently signed up for a Qualified Health Plan or renewed their health coverage through www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Of the total number of Qualified Health Plan enrollees, more than 16,000 enrolled during the spring special enrollment period.

The spring special enrollment period, which ran from Feb. 17 to April 17, was previously available to Washingtonians who recently became aware of the tax penalty for not having health insurance or were unable to complete their applications due to technical issues by the Feb. 15 deadline.

In the midst of a pretty quiet week data-wise, the Washingotn HealthPlanFinder had a pleasant surprise: An extremely comprehensive enrollment report which breaks down their 2015 numbers every which way possible and, of particular importance to me, also includes data up through March 9th (as opposed to the Feb. 21st cut-off of most of the other state exchanges).

As an additional bonus, the accompanying press release also brings the QHP enrollment numbers even further up to date...right up through March 25th, I think (the PR doesn't specify the exact date of that number, but it's a few thousand higher than the enrollment report so I'm assuming it includes the 16 extra days).

First up: The top-of-the-fold numbers:

Washington Healthplanfinder Enrolls 165,000 in Qualified Health Plans; Annual Enrollment Report Released

Special Enrollment Opportunity Still Available through April 17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2015, 10:00 am PST

Now that the King v. Burwell Supreme Court oral arguments are out of the way (with radio silence expected until they announce the decision sometime in June) , the next Big Development to keep an eye on ACA-wise is...Tax Season! There will be plenty of stories about how many people have to pay back some/all of their 2014 tax credits, how many will receive additional tax credits...and, most germane to this site, how many additional people enroll via the exchanges to avoid having to pay (most) of the higher tax penalty next year for not being covered in 2015 during the Tax Filing Season Special Enrollment Period (SEP), or #ACATaxTime as I prefer to call it.

This is about as minor of an update as I can post; the actual hard enrollment number is slightly lower than the 160K figure that I already had, but it's still good to have specific data, plus it's broken out into more detail. Plus, the SHOP data is here as well (such as it is):

Open Enrollment Numbers (All Numbers Effective as of February 15, 2015)

Individual Marketplace

An hour ago I wrote about the WA HealthplanFinder re-launching a special Tax Season enrollment period which effectively just extends the enrollment period out by an extra 2 months. However, the press release wasn't posted openly on their site.

They just made it official...and along the way provided a rough QHP enrollment update:

Washington Healthplanfinder Closes with Surge in Enrollment, Announces Spring Special Enrollment Opportunity for Washingtonians to Avoid 2016 Penalty

Residents who were unaware of tax penalty may still have time to enroll

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 16, 2015, 10:00 a.m. PST

Tami Luhby of CNNMoney deserves a shout-out for hunting down this notice from the Washington HealthPlanFinder (it's not officially posted publicly on their website yet that I can tell):

This is the first year residents who are filing their 2014 federal taxes may incur a penalty through the IRS on their tax return if they failed to have health insurance for more than three consecutive months in 2014. Given that some residents may become aware of the penalty for the first time this year, Washington Healthplanfinder will open a Special Enrollment Period for these individuals so they can get coverage and avoid the penalty for not having coverage in 2015. These individuals as well as those who were unable to meet the Feb. 15 deadline can apply for the Spring 2015 Special Enrollment Period.

I've confirmed that Rhode Island's weather-induced enrollment extension is indeed state-wide and is of the "full" variety (ie, people can start the application process, not just finish it), through February 23rd. This is exactly the same policy that the Massachusetts exchange announced the other day.

Also, a late-breaking extension announced from Maryland.

11:45pm: OK, add the DC exchange to the pile.

9:00am 2/16/15: OK, HHS/CMS has clarified the specifics for the 37 Healthcare.Gov states.

11:50am 2/16/15: Idaho's policy took some work to decipher...

2:24pm 2/16/15: ...and Minnesota...

As I noted last week, Washington State is doing things a bit backwards from just about every other state...instead of reporting the total number of QHP selections and then, in a few cases, also reporting the number of enrollees who have actually paid their first premium, the WA HealthBenefit Exchange is only reporting enrollments after they've made their first payment.

On the one hand, I wish every state was reporting this number. On the other hand, unlike MA & VT (which report both numbers) or Rhode Island (which is reporting both, but only including the total selections after subtracting those who are past-due on their payments), WA isn't including the total selections at all. This makes things a bit tricky for me, since I'm trying to report both numbers.

As a result, what I'm doing for the moment is assuming the standard 88% payment rate, which means that today's announcement of 139,000 QHP enrollments should mean roughly 158,000 total selections:

Yesterday I lamented the fact that the Washington State ACA exchange seemed to be seriously lagging behind just about every other state in terms of achieving their 2015 QHP selection target, with only 132K QHPs to date vs. the 215K that they were hoping to reach this year (not to mention my personal target of 250K, which turns out to have been way out of line).

I figured that they're on track to only end up with perhaps 180-190K by 2/15, coming up 25K - 35K short of their goal.

However, IBD's Jed Graham (who has been on fire lately; this is the 2nd important point he's brought to my attention this week) reminded me that last year, unlike every other state except Massachusetts, Washington only reported paid enrollments, not total plan selections. If that's true this year as well, he noted, then I've been missing roughly 12% of WA's total all along (put another way, I should be plugging that 132K number into the paid column, not the total column).

The Washington State ACA exchange released updated 2015 enrollment numbers today, broken out by county, current through January 31st. They've even broken each county out between renewals from 2014 and new additions for 2015. The grand totals?

This press release from the Washington exchange about tax credits for 2014 ACA enrollees isn't an official enrollment update, but they do include a rough update about 2/3 of the way down the text:

As of Jan. 25, more than 127,000 residents have enrolled in Qualified Health Plans for 2015 coverage, with approximately 40,000 of those customers signing up for the first time through Washington Healthplanfinder. 

127K is about 10K more than they had enrolled as of January 17, or around 1,250/day. At that rate, they'd be likely to add another 26K by 2/15, for 153K total, which would be far short of the 215K that they're targeting (and way short of the 250K I was anticipating for WA). A decent mid-February surge should bring them up to around 175K, and a full surge could max out at 200K even. It's conceivable that they'll even squeak by their own target, but I don't see any way of reaching my own target.

TODAY, January 15th, is the deadline for anyone who wants to enroll in a private insurance policy for coverage starting on February 1st in most states (or to switch to a different policy if you have one but want to make a change starting in February).

After that, of course, we'll have the big February 15th deadline (for March 1st coverage), which will also be a big deal because it'll be the last chance many (not all) uninsured people have to get coverage before the door slams closed until next fall.

Remember, the penalty in 2016 for not having health insurance in 2015 is considerably higher than it was for 2014: Instead of 1% of your taxable income (or $95/person in your household, whichever is higher), the fee this year is 2% of your income or $325 per person.