Amidst all the depressing news about various GOP states moving backwards on healthcare policy by gunking up Medicaid programs to add draconian work requirements, lowering the eligibility thresholds, stripping benefits and so forth, there were two positive developments in deep red territory last week, both relating to Medicaid work requirements:
A bill that sought to place work or other requirements on Medicaid recipients in West Virginia has died in the House of Delegates.
A House committee put the bill on its inactive calendar Wednesday, Feb. 27, the final day that legislation could be passed in their chamber of origin. The full House earlier Wednesday debated the bill but stopped short of voting on it, and did not take up the bill during a late evening session before adjourning.
The bill would have required able-bodied adults to work, participate in workforce training or community service, or attend a drug treatment or recovery program for at least 20 hours per week.
Last week, the state of Arkansas released its latest round of data on implementation of its Medicaid work reporting requirement – the first in the country to be implemented. As readers of SayAhhh! know, over 18,000 lost coverage in 2018 as a result of not complying with the new reporting rules. And the policy is clearly failing to achieve its purported goal – incentivizing work – with less than 1% of those subject to the new policy newly reporting work or community engagement activities.
I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.
Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these.
However, while state insurance regulators left one of the three carriers offering individual market policies alone, they knocked the other two down substantially: CareSource was lowered from around 13.1% to 9.5%, while Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield was lowered from an average of 15.9% to 9.0%.
The most noteworthy thing about West Virginia's 2019 filings that I can see is that CareSource is expanding their state coverage from 10 counties to 35 counties, and the confirmation that West Virginia will remain one of the few states sticking with a Broad Load CSR strategy for reasons unknown next year (the state insurance commissioner might change their tune, however, now that CMS has done a complete 180 degree turn and has officially come out in favor of Silver Switching).
In any event, the statewide average premium hike appears to be around 14.9%...but once again, much of this is due to the ACA's individual mandate being repealed and Trump opening the floodgates on #ShortAssPlans.
At $843/month, West Virginia has one of the highest average monthly premiums in the country...and instead of only going up nominally next year, thanks to #ACASabotage, unsubsidized enrollees will likely have to pay a whopping $1,300 more apiece next year.
Up until a week ago, the possibility of Donald Trump pulling the plug on Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursement payments was a looming threat every day. While it hadn't actually happened yet, most of the state insurance commissioners and/or insurance carriers themselves saw the potential writing on the wall and priced their 2018 premiums accordingly (or at the very least prepared two different sets of rate filings to cover either contingency).
A few spread the extra CSR load across all policies, both on and off the exchange. This seems like the "fairest" way of handling things on the surface, but is actually the worst way to do so, because it hurts all unsubsidized enrollees no matter what they choose for 2018 and can even make things slightly worse for some subsidized enrollees in Gold or Platinum plans.
In August I reported that the three individual market carriers in West Virginia (CareFirst, Highmark BCBS and Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley) were requesting average rate hikes of around 17.8% assuming CSR payments are made or 27.8% assuming they aren't.
Another fairly straightfoward state: Three carriers, two of which (CareFirst and Health Plan of Upper Ohio Valley) appear to be assuming CSR payments will be paid; the third, Highmark BCBS (which holds the vast bulk of the individual market) openly states that they assume they won't be made and that the mandate won't be enforced to boot. I'm once again assuming roughly 2/3 of Kaiser Family Foundation's "Silver CSR hike", which in this case would be about 10%, giving the following: 17.8% if CSR payments are made, 27.8% if they are:
Assuming 37,000 people enroll in private exchange policies by the end of January, I estimate around 25,500 of them would be forced off of their private policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal, plus another 169,000 enrolled in the ACA Medicaid expansion program, for a total of over 195,000 West Virginians kicked to the curb.
As for the individual market, my standard methodology applies:
However, I also noted that I'd make sure to fill in the approved rates for the remaining 10 states as they came in, for completeness sake...and today, thanks to the HHS Dept. cutting the ribbon on 2017 Window Shopping at HealthCare.Gov, I've also been able to fill in the blanks for five of the remaining states all in one shot (the other five remain elusive).
There's been story after story over the past few months about insurance carriers large and small either dropping out of the ACA exchanges or (in the case of 4 co-ops) going belly-up altogether. Along the way, there have also been a few stories about other carriers expanding into new states or additional counties in states they're already participating in.
Residents in more West Virginia counties will have additional health plan options when the open enrollment period on the Mountain State’s insurance exchange, created in the Affordable Care Act, opens on Nov. 1.
In its 2nd year in West Virginia, CareSource, a nonprofit managed care provider based in Dayton, Ohio, is expanding its coverage area to include 32 counties.
...In 2016, CareSource is providing health insurance coverage to more than 1,300 West Virginia residents in ten counties: Brooke, Cabell, Hancock, Kanawha, Lincoln, Marshall, Mason, Ohio, Putnam, Wayne.
Lots of stuff happening fast & furious these days as #OE4 approaches. Instead of individual posts, I'm gonna cram 7 state updates into a single one...and am also cheating a bit by cribbing off of excellent work by Louise Norris over at healthinsurance.org (which is fair, since she also gets some of her data from me as well):
ALABAMA: Here's what my requested rate hike table looked like for Alabama on August 1st:
As I noted Monday morning, I believe that August 1st was the deadline for every state to submit their 2017 rate filings, meaning that the 14 states missing from my Requested Rate Hike Project are finally available to be plugged into the spreadsheet. I'll also be going back through the other states I've been tracking since as early as April to see which ones require updates due to carriers dropping out, joining in or resubmitting their rate requests.
With all of the lawsuits against the ACA flying around over the years, there are some which I haven't even heard about. One of them just came to my attention this morning (thanks to Nicholas Bagley for the heads' up): The State of West Virginia vs. the HHS Dept:
Elbert Lin, Solicitor General, Office of the Attorney General for the State of West Virginia, argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Patrick J. Morrisey, Attorney General, and Julie Marie Blake, Assistant Attorney General.
Lindsey Powell, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, argued the cause for appellee. With her on the brief were Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and Alisa B. Klein and Mark B. Stern, Attorneys.
Before: KAVANAUGH and WILKINS, Circuit Judges, and SILBERMAN, Senior Circuit Judge.
Opinion for the Court filed by Senior Circuit Judge SILBERMAN.
I haven't written much about West Virginia, and the last time I addressed their Medicaid expansion data was way back in September 2014, when they hit around 150,000 enrollees...or 100% of the total number thought to be eligible for the program.
Either those estimates were off, or the economic situation has changed over the past year or two. It's also conceivable that the state has deliberately nudged some "traditional" Medicaid enrollees over to "expansion" status in order to save money (remember, the federal government only pays 74% of the cost of "traditional" Medicaid, but 100% of expansion, though this gradually drops to 90% over the next few years).