Charles Gaba's blog

Presented without comment other than to say "My, how things have changed..."

In strategy and substance, the American public disagrees with the course that President Trump and congressional Republicans are pursuing to replace the Affordable Care Act with conservative policies, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House.

...Public sentiment is particularly lopsided in favor of an aspect of the current health-care law that blocks insurers from charging more or denying coverage to customers with medical conditions. Roughly 8 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 independents and even a slight majority of Republicans say that should continue to be a national mandate...

A couple of weeks back, the Kaiser Family Foundation crunched the numbers to see just how much insurance carriers would likely raise their full-price premiums on individual market policies to make up for lost CSR assistance reimbursements in the event that Donald Trump makes good on his threat to discontinue them. Their conclusion?

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that the average premium for a benchmark silver plan in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces would need to increase by an estimated 19 percent for insurers to compensate for lost funding if they don’t receive federal payment for ACA cost-sharing subsidies.

Again, that's an average onf 19% on top of whatever the carriers would otherwise be increasing rates for other reasons.

This has been confirmed by a separate report from the American Academy of Actuaries, which draws the same conclusion:

(sigh) Over at the Arkansas Times, healthcare reporter extraordinaire David Ramsey has the skinny on the latest mucking around with ACA Medicaid expansion being attempted by GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state Republican leadership:

The feds would have to approve the state's waiver proposal in order to enact the governor's plan, but the feds will only move forward if legislation is already in place. That's the reason for the special session: The governor will ask the legislature to pass laws granting him the authority to seek the waiver and his plan will be spelled out, in broad terms, in legislative language in these laws. Most expect that the governor will be able to get legislative approval relatively easily (he needs a simple majority). Note that some of the fine print will still have to wait for the state's actual waiver proposal and the terms and conditions if the Trump administration grants the waiver.

Here are some of the changes that Hutchinson will be pushing in the special session:

 

I used to write about Kentucky quite a bit shortly after incoming GOP Governor Matt Bevin made good on his promise to disassemble their beloved and award-winning "kynect" state ACA exchange. I haven't written much about the state since then, however, until now.

Bevin made two major campaign promises while running to replace former Democratic Governor Steve Beshear (who expanded Medicaid and established kynect via executive order): He said he'd kill kynect and get rid of ACA Medicaid expansion. He stuck to his guns on the former, and while it's a damned shame that he did so for a number of reasons (it was working perfectly well, had a high public image and awareness, etc), it didn't cause too much damage, since KY simply shifted to the federal exchange instead (HealthCare.Gov). Enrollment did drop off by over 13% year over year, but a few other states saw similar drops, so the move probably wasn't a major factor.

As I posted yesterday, here's a rough overview of what total Individual Market Enrollment has looked like since 2010, and how Trump's threat to cut-off CSR reimbursements would impact it:

The blue section is off-exchange enrollees...around 7 million people today, all of whom are paying full price. This includes perhaps 1.8 million people still enrolled in Grandfathered or Transitional plans (which are part of a separate risk pool), although that number is highly speculative.

A couple of weeks ago, I crunched the numbers from a major state-by-state study by the Milliman actuarial firm and concluded that the overall individual market was somewhat smaller than I had previously thought, and was likely around 17.7 million people total as of today. The key thing to keep in mind is that the enrollment numbers can fluctuate quite a bit over the course of the year due to the high churn rate and other factors. As a result, the average annual enrollment can be quite different from the snapshot in time total.

Case in point: Here's what healthcare analytical firm Mark Farrah Associates had to say as of last September:

Those who appreciate irony will love this one.

If you enroll in an ACA exchange policy via HealthCare.Gov (or any of the state-based exchanges), you have three options for the Advance Premium Tax Credits:

  1. You can decline to even see if you're eligible (if your income is high enough that you're certain that you won't qualify)
  2. You can see if you're eligible, and if so, choose to apply some or all of the APTC directly to your monthly premium
  3. You can see if you're eligible, and if so, choose not to apply any of the APTC to your monthly premium, choosing instead to pay full price up front and then receive the full annual tax credit when filing your taxes the following year.

While the ACA is working very well for millions of people, there are also two groups for whom it has serious problems.

The first are those caught in the Medicaid Gap...incomes below 100% FPL, living in the 19 GOP-controlled states which chose not to expand Medicaid.

Standard & Poor's, December 22, 2016:

Well THAT figures: Insurance carriers finally breaking even on ACA exchanges just in time for GOP to tear up the law.

Health insurers may finally be seeing improved results on their Obamacare plans just as a newly elected president is poised to follow through on promises to end the controversial coverage program, a new report suggests.

An analysis out Thursday says that health insurers are expected in 2016 "to start reversing" financial losses on their Obamacare business after "hitting bottom" in 2015.

And 2017 "will likely see continued improvement" for those insurers selling individual health plans, "with more insurers getting close to breakeven or better," according to the report by Standard and Poor's Global Ratings.

Last year Virginia was the first state out of the gate with their initial 2017 individual & small group market rate filings. I'm not sure if this is chance or if they simply have the earliest filing deadline. I'm guessing the latter, because, as Zach Tracer noted earlier today, Virginia is again the first state to list their 2018 Individual and Small Group Market participants. Remember, these are initial filings only, and very much subject to change throughout the summer and early fall. Here's who Tracer says has stated is committing to being on the ACA exchanges this fall...at the moment, anyway:

 

UPDATE: ...or, perhaps not. Latest word is that there's basically little to see here; lots of big talk about pushing forward but very little action. Or perhaps there will be next week, who the heck knows? Wash, rinse, repeat.

On March 24th, just after the AHCA (Trumpcare) bill was yanked from the House floor with literally minutes to go, I posted the following headline:

CELEBRATE A FEW HOURS. Then come back and read this.

Well, according to Matt Fuller and Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post, Trumpcare 2: Electric Boogaloo may indeed be a go:

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