Charles Gaba's blog

As noted before, I'm really trying to move onto the actual enrollment part of the 2017 open enrollment period, but I can't resist doing some more final cleanup of my Rate Hike project:

  • SOUTH CAROLINA: This is one of the 5 states which I still didn't have approved rate changes for. Today the site finally added in the final numbers for SC, so here's what it looks like:

Aetna was a bit tricky--the total enrollee number is actually 41,988. They dropped out of the ACA exchange but are sticking around the off-exchange market, so I had to figure out how many of those 42K are on vs. off-exchange. The answer is in this article which notes:

More than 220,000 South Carolinians rely on the federal health care law for insurance. This year, only 8,000 of them are covered by Aetna plans.

Donald Trump, 10/25/16:

Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed that the Obama administration is lying about the size of ObamaCare premium hikes, saying it put out a "phony" number.

The administration on Monday announced that the average premium increase for a benchmark ObamaCare plan will be 25 percent for 2017, a number seized on by Republicans.

But Trump took the line of attack a step farther.

“And the number of 25 percent is nothing,” the GOP presidential nominee told Fox News. “That’s a phony number, too, that’s a lie, just like everything else.”

The 25 percent number comes from a 40-page report released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday. It includes a four page section on its methods, as well as tables breaking down the premium increases by state and county.

Spokespeople for Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on his comments.

Going into the fourth year of open enrollment, my work here at ACA Signups has started to fall into a seasonal pattern. During open enrollment itself, of course, it's all about the core mission of the site: Live-tracking the number of people who actually sign up for ACA exchange policies, and the related news items which accompany that. In the spring, it's all about dust settling and wrapping up: Plugging in the hard numbers, seeing how they compare with what I had projected and so on.

In the summer and fall, however, I'm on my second year of tracking the average (unsubsidized) rate increases people can expect for the following year.

For the past month or so, dozens of news stories across the political ideological spectrum have cited my estimate of the national weighted average individual market rate hikes for 2017...usually listed as 24-25%, depending on the exact date they went to press (the number has moved around slightly as additional state data has come in; it currently sits at 25.6%, although I expect it to drop back below the 25% mark once the remaining 5 states are plugged in).

However, yesterday's press releases from the HHS Dept., along with the official ASPE Health Plan Choice and Premiums in the 2017 Health Insurance Marketplace report has caused a bit of understandable confusion. Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones mentions both ASPE's 22% figure along with my own 25% estimate:

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).


More Than 70 Percent of Consumers Can Find Marketplace Plans for Less than $75 Per Month

With Start of Window Shopping, Americans Can Now Check Out Options for 2017 Coverage

With window shopping beginning today, Health Insurance Marketplace consumers can now visit to check out their options for 2017 coverage in advance of the start of Open Enrollment on November 1. A new report released today shows that 72 percent of Marketplace consumers in states using will be able to find plans with a premium of less than $75 per month and 77 percent will be able to find plans with premiums below $100, taking into account financial assistance. The report also shows that consumers will have options, with an average of 30 health insurance plans to choose from.

For over 2 months now, I've pinned my 2017 Average Rate Hike Project summary to the top of the home page, gradually filling in one state after another as approved rate change data was released. As I indicated in my most recent update to that post, it's time to move on...especially now that 2017 Open Enrollment Period Window Shopping at HealthCare.Gov has officially gone live:

Let's step through the process and see what's changed, shall we?

First of all, the general interface is mostly the same but has a slightly different layout:

designed to be even more mobile-friendly (note the arrow at the top right...that toggles a vertical menu which lets you move back/forth between steps in the form process):

I wrote the following almost exactly 1 year ago, regarding news that the total number/variety of plans available via was dropping from the previous year:

While this sounds negative overall, in some ways it actually could be good news. For instance, the Massachusetts exchange deliberately cut down on the number of plans available:

Consumers can expect at least two big changes this fall when they go shopping for their 2016 health insurance through the Massachusetts Health Connector: significantly fewer choices, and a new mechanism to find out which care networks include their doctors.

The Connector staff told the agency’s governing board Thursday that the number of plans offered next year will be no more than 81, down from the current 126.

The board had agreed in March that the Connector needed to simplify its offerings. The differences among the plans were described as too small to justify the confusion caused by so many options.

(judging from the Mervyn's ad campaign, white middle-class suburban women were the only ones who bought clothing in the '90's....)

With Open Enrollment 2017 just 11 days away and the books closed on my Average Rate Hike project (don't worry, I'll fill in the remaining 10 states later but with 41 states accounted for, I think I've made my point), I figured it'd be a good point to take a look at which of the ACA exchange websites are already open for 2017 window shopping and which ones aren't:

At the beginning of 2016, the Kaiser Family Foundation ran an analysis of just who the remaining uninsured Americans are by income, employment status, legal residency status and so on. They came to some interesting and important conclusions, many of which I incorporated into my own massive "SHOW YOUR WORK" pie chart project back in April, which attempted to break out the entire U.S. population by type of healthcare coverage (or the lack thereof, in the case of the uninsured).

Yesterday, Kaiser published a completely updated version of their analysis. In addition to having more recent data to work with (including the increased number of ACA exchange enrollees, the increased number of people covered by Medicaid thanks to ongoing ACA expansion progress, etc), they also made some changes in their methodology. The most obvious change is that their estimate of the total uninsured (non-elderly only; you'd have to bump the number up by perhaps 1 million more if seniors were included) has dropped from 32.3 million to 27.2 million nationally.

In addition, however, the proportion of people falling into different categories has shifted as well. Here's how they break it out: