Charles Gaba's blog

Yesterday I hobbled together the weighted average rate hikes (either requested or approved) for the ACA-compliant small group markets across 15 states. In 4 of these states, I hadn't yet tallied the weighted average, so I temporarily used the median increase for each. In the case of Pennsylvania, the range was from a 3.8% decrease to a 33% increase, with a midpoint of around 14.6%.

Today, however, I've actually plugged in the enrollment numbers for each sm. group carrier in Pennsylvania based on their 2017 rate request filings, and have come up with a weighted average of just 7.9%:

(sigh) I thought that last Friday was the deadline for carriers to decide whether they were in or out of the exchange for 2017, but between today's news out of Tennessee and now this, apparently that deadline only applies to those who will be participating in the 4th Open Enrollment Period:

Indiana University Health Plans is pulling out of the Obamacare marketplace in Indiana, just one month after state regulators approved its proposal to raise premiums nearly 15 percent.

IU Health Plans said Monday afternoon it had “restructured its product offerings for 2017” and no longer will be offering individual plans on the exchange. It said the change was necessary “to adapt to new market dynamics” as well as uncertainty created by withdrawals of several other insurers.

Things are looking pretty good for the ACA exchanges in states like Rhode Island, North Dakota and Massachusetts, where they're looking at single-digit rate hikes next year. However, they're looking pretty dire in states like Arizona, Montana and Oklahoma, where the average hikes are likely to be around 50% or higher for many people.

And then there's Tennessee, where Blue Cross Blue Shield asked for and received a 62% rate hike...but even so, just announced that they're dropping out of the individual market completely (both on and off exchange) in 30 counties throughout the state, in the Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville areas:

Bluecross BlueShield of Tennessee is pulling out of three regions in 2017 for their individual/marketplace plans.

The HHS Dept. is very much aware that they have got to get more millennials enrolled in ACA-compliant individual healthcare policies this season; the exchange risk pool has been hovering at around 28% 18-34 year olds for three years running, when the conventional wisdom among those who know more about such things is that they need that number to be somewhere closer to 40% to stabilize the market.

Now, there's a lot of reasons why more young people aren't signing up, including affordability, which of course is the main reason HHS is trying to get more of them to sign up in the first place, creating a bit of a Catch-22. In addition the very "19-25 year olds allowed to stay on their parents plan" provision of the ACA is itself cannibalizing several million potential ACA exchange enrollees, creating some additional irony, since most of those "sub26ers" are presumably enrolled in the employer policies of their parents. Some of these reasons are completely outside of HHS's control

UPDATE 10/26/16: In light of yesterday's official confirmation by the HHS Dept. that my estimate of ~25% weighted avg unsubsidized rate hikes on the individual market was dead-on target, I thought it was important to pin this entry to the front of the website again.

Remember that big pie chart I posted last March which broke out the entire U.S. population by type of healthcare coverage? Well, here's a modified version, showing which people will and won't be impacted by the "25% average" figure being argued about today:


I actually included most of this as an update to my last post, but given how important this is, I figured I should write it up as a separate entry.

A few people have asked whether or not the "25% average hikes" I've estimated which have been cited by pretty much every outlet under the sun also apply to job-based coverage.

NO! Absolutely not!

That 25% weighted national average only applies to the roughly 18 million people enrolled in ACA-compliant individual policies...and even then, roughly half of those folks are mostly protected from the hikes thanks to the federal tax credits. So we're really talking about roughly 9 million people who have to pay the full 25% average increases.

When I decided to once again launch my Annual Rate Hike Estimate project this summer, I knew that this year, the rate increases for the individual market were likely to be significantly higher than in years past. Coming as they are in an election year, as a Democrat and ACA supporter, I obviously took no joy in reporting this truth.

However, a) The data is the data; it would be dishonest of me to try and ignore reality; and b) I knew that if I didn't report the rate increases as accurately as possible, Donald Trump and his Republican Party would flat-out lie about them.

Trump on his ACA replacement plan: "You will be making your own deals and they will be greater than you ever thought possible"

— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) September 24, 2016

Pretty incredible in new WaPo/ABC poll: On health care, voters favor candidate who can't even describe his plan.

— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 25, 2016

UPDATE: OK, as Diamond notes, this is technically good news, although it's still pretty depressing:

Good news (?): The Post published wrong poll results + fixed 20 minutes ago. Here's corrected data on health care. 

— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 25, 2016

A couple of weeks ago the final approved rates for Maryland's individual market were released; when plugging these into my table, my estimate of the statewide weighted average was 24.8%.

Thanks to the heads up from Louise Norris, however, I now have hard numbers from the Maryland Dept. of Insurance. I was close, but the actual weighted average is slightly higher. In addition, they've provided the small group averages as well:

The Maryland Insurance Administration Approves Premium Rates for 2017 Small Group and Individual Markets
Open Enrollment Begins Nov. 1 in the individual market; Consumers Encouraged to Shop Rates

Lots of healthcare reporters, pundits, executives, providers and politicians are likely issuing a huge sigh of relief at this moment, because after month after month of various insurance carriers announcing that they're dropping off the ACA exchange in certain counties only, state-wide or even dropping out of the individual market entirely (or that they're going out of business altogether, as in the case of four more co-ops), today was the deadline for carriers to officially commit to participating in the 2017 Open Enrollment Period starting on November 1st.

Today (Friday, Sept. 23) happens to be the deadline for insurance carriers to sign agreements with the federal government for participating in the exchange this Open Enrollment period (I'm not sure if today's deadline also applies to the state-based exchanges or not; they might be different). Until today, it looked as though there were going to be 3 carriers offering individual policies on the Nebraska exchange:

The figures compared 2016 and 2017 rates for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Aetna Health Inc. and Medica, the three companies that will offer policies to Nebraskans on the exchange when open enrollment starts Nov. 1.

However, as commenter M E noted, it looks like BCBSNE decided to wait until literally the last minute (last hour, anyway) to change their minds: