West Virginia

There are three insurance carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market plans in West Virginia: CareSource, Highmark BCBS and Optum, although Optum has barely any enrollees at all, and the other two combined only total around 26,000 people in the state.

The final, approved average unsubsdized premiums for 2020 haven't changed from the requested rates--the weighted statewide average is a 6.7% increase.

Nothing terribly noteworthy about any of this, except that with that 6.7% increase, West Virginia has just taken the title for Most Expensive Obamacare Premiums in the Country, with average premiums averaging $990/month per enrollee, or nearly $12,000/year apiece.

This record was held by Wyoming last year (prior to that I believe Alaska had by far the highest rates in the country, until they instituted their ACA reinsurance waiver a few years back, which reduced full-price premiums by a good 25% or so).

MLR rebate payments for 2018 are being sent out to enrollees even as I type this. The data for 2018 MLR rebates won't be officially posted for another month or so, but I've managed to acquire it early, and after a lot of number-crunching the data, I've recompiled it into an easy-to-read format.

But that's not all! In addition to the actual 2018 MLR rebates, I've gone one step further and have taken an early crack at trying to figure out what 2019 MLR rebates might end up looking like next year (for the Individual Market only). In order to do this, I had to make several very large assumptions:

West Virginia has three carriers offering policies on the Individual Market: CareSource, Highmark and The Health Plan of WV (aka Optum). I was ble to find the hard enrollment number for CareSource, while both HighMark and Optum are redacted, so I based my enrollment estimates on 83% of last year's (WV's total ACA exchange enrollment dropped 17% this year). Even if that ratio is off, it won't make that much of a difference since the two are pretty close anyway (+5.9% and +6.5% respectively).

Statewide, unsubsidized West Virginians will be seeing roughly a 6.7% average increase...to a whopping $1,000/month on average, one of the highest rates in the country. Of course, WV is also one of the few states which, to my knowledge, is still refusing to Silver Load or Silver Switch their premium increases, which makes it even worse for the few unsubsidized enrollees they have.

Meanwhile, the unweighted average increase on the WV small group market is +11.2%.

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:

First, in West Virginia:

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.

(sigh) via Joan Alker of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute:

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.

West Virginia's requested average rate increase was among the highest in the country for 2019--a weighted average of around 14.9%.

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.

Today the approved rate hikes came out for the first two. I don't know the final rate for the third company, but they're off-exchange only and have just 133 enrollees, so that won't move the needle one way or the other regardless:

The West Virginia Insurance Commission approved rate increases for Highmark West Virginia and CareSource Insurance’s services sold in the “Obamacare” exchange.

MetroNews learned Tuesday premiums for Highmark West Virginia will increase by 25.6 percent, while CareSource Insurance will have a 19.6-percent increase in its rate.

The article goes on to falsely conflate the 2017 and 2018 rate increases, however:

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:

Of the 31 states which have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, only a handful issue regular monthly or weekly enrollment reports.

I noted in February that enrollment in the ACA's Medicaid expansion program had increased by around 35,000 people across just 4 states (LA, MI, MN & PA).

It's early June now, so I checked in once more, and the numbers have continued to grow. I have the direct links for 5 states now (including New Hampshire)...

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:

Last week I noted that with 41 states accounted for and the 2017 Open Enrollment Period quickly bearing down on everyone, it was time to pull the plug on my 2017 Average Rate Hike project and move on. I had come up with an overall national weighted unsubsidized average rate increase of around 25% for ACA-compliant individual market plans.

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.

Case in point:

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:

Updates: Norris Confirms that:

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