2020 Rate Changes

Every year, I spend months painstakingly tracking every insurance carrier rate filing for the following year to determine just how much average insurance policy premiums on the individual market are projected to increase or decrease.

Carriers jump in and out of the market, their tendency repeatedly revise their requests, and the confusing blizzard of actual filing forms which sometimes make it next to impossible to find the specific data I need. The actual data I need to compile my estimates are actually fairly simple, however. I really only need three pieces of information for each carrier:

  • How many effectuated enrollees they have enrolled in ACA-compliant individual market policies;
  • What their average projected premium rate increase (or decrease) is for those enrollees (assuming 100% of them renew their existing policies, of course); and
  • Ideally, a breakout of the reasons behind those rate changes, since there's usually more than one.
  • In 2015, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2016 would be roughly 12-13% nationally. It turned out to be around 11.6%.
  • In 2016, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2017 would be roughly 25% nationally. It turned out to be around 22%, but that only included on-exchange Silver plan enrollees across 44 states (I included all metal levels, both on and off exchange, across all 50 states).
  • In 2017, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2018 would be around 29% nationally, and that 60% of that would be due specifically to deliberate Trump Administration actions designed to sabotage the ACA markets. It turned out to be around 28% nationally.
  • In 2018, I projected that the overall average rate increases for 2019 would be around 2.8% nationally, and that premiums would have dropped around 5.4% on average if not for the ACA's individual mandate being repealed & short-term & association plans being expanded. Hhealthcare think tank Avalere Health came to almost the exact same estimates on the actual rate changes, while Brookings Institute healthcare analyst Matthew Fiedler concluded that unsubsidized ACA individual market premiums would indeed have dropped by around 4.3% nationally on average in the absence of mandate repeal and expansion of #ShortAssPlans.

In other words, I've had a pretty good track record of accurately projecting average premium increases for the upcoming year for four years in a row. With that in mind, below you'll find a table tracking the state-by-state preliminary and final rate changes for the 2020 ACA-compliant individual (and sometimes small group) markets. Scroll down for individual state entry links.

Mississippi once again has two carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market coverage in 2021 and six on the small group market. Unfortunately, few filing forms don't seem to be available and the ones which are are redacted, so I can't run weighted averages for either.

The unweighted average rate increases are 2.7% on the individual market and basically flat for small group plans.

So far, only 8 states (+DC) have released their preliminary 2020 ACA-compliant individual market premium rate filings. So what's the deal with the other 42 states? Well, here's a handy 2020 Submission Deadline table from SERFF (the System for Electronic Rates & Forms Filing, a database maintained by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners).

However, it's a bit overly cumbersome: It stretches out over 5 full pages, and includes columns for Standalone Dental Plans as well as a bunch of info regarding the Small Group Market.

To that end, I've cleaned up/simplified the 2021 Submission Deadline table considerably to only include the individual and small group market dates. I'll be perfectly honest: I'm not quite sure what the distinction is between the "Form/Rate Filings" and the "Binder Deadlines", but the dates tend to match up pretty closely, so I've included all of them below.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, normally I would've been all over the official CMS 2020 Open Enrollment Period report the moment it was released. It cuts to the core of what I've done here at ACA Signups for the past seven years: Detailed demographic breakouts of everyone who enrolled in on-exchange ACA market policies during the Open Enrollment Period.

Instead, this year I've kind of put it to the side for obvious reasons. With the COVID-19 pandemic having killed over 37,000 Americans and with well over 710,000 total cases to date, it's hard to get too focused on this particular report. Besides, as I noted before, the national enrollment numbers (overall) are almost identical to last year anyway: Just 35,000 fewer people than during the 2019 OEP.

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).

Back in mid-August, I plugged in the preliminary 2020 individual market rate change requests for unsubsidized enrollees in Texas. Unfortunately, at the time I only had hard enrollment data for some of the carriers, which meant I could only run a "semi-weighted" statewide average, which came in at +0.8%.

Since then, I've managed to find the enrollment data for the rest of the carriers as well...and yesterday CMS posted the final, approved 2020 rate changes, allowing me to run the complete, final, fully-weighted average. In the end rates in Texas are dropping by 1.4%:

Mississippi once again has two carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market coverage in 2020: Ambetter of Magnolia, which holds 58% of the market, and Blue Cross Blue Shield with the other 42%. Earlier this year they were asking for average rate hikes of 3.0% and 2.3% respectively, but Ambetter's final/approved rates are coming in at a 1.1% reduction, bringing the overall average down to a mere 0.3% rate hike.

Not much to this one: Wyoming has just a single carrier selling ACA-compliant individual market policies to their 577,000 residents, Blue Cross Blue Shield...which is raising rates 1.6% on average for 2020. No change from their requested increase a few months earlier.

Back in early August, it looked like New Hampshire's avg. unsubsidized 2020 ACA premiums would be increasing slightly, by a little over 1% statewide.

The final, approved 2020 rates are actually dropping slightly:

North Carolina has three individual market carriers in 2019. For 2020, that's increasing to four, as Bright Health Care is expanding into the NC market. The other three carriers (Blue Cross Blue Shield has a near monopoly at the moment) had requested average unsubsidized rate drops of 5.3% previously; in the end the final rates are dropping slightly more, to -5.6%.

Missouri's final/approved avg. 2020 unsubsidized premium rate changes have finally been posted by CMS. For the most part they're following the same pattern as most other states this year with modest increases or decreases and a statewide weighted average decrease of 2.0% year over year. On average, unsubsidized ACA enrollees should pay about $13/month less next year than they are today.

However, what is noteworthy is that not one, not two but three new insurance carriers are entering the MO individual market this fall, bringing the total up to seven operating statewide: Cox Health Systems, Oscar Insurance (which was cofounded by Jared Kushner's brother, FWIW) and SSM Health Insurance.

When I first ran the preliminary 2020 avg. rate hike numbers for Nebraska in August, the sole carrier offering ACA-compliant policies in the state (Medica) was planning on reducing their average premiums by 5.3%. Yesterday the final, approved rates were posted by CMS, and unsubsidized 2020 premiums will be even lower, by 6.9% on average.

For 2020, Bright Health is joining the Nebraska exchange.

I'm not sure how this happened, but it looks like I missed posting about South Dakota's requested 2020 premium rate filings. No matter, though, because the approved avg. rate increases (for unsubsidized enrollees) are exactly the same as what Avera Health Plan and Sanford Health Plan asked for anyway.

Statewide, South Dakota is looking at 6.5% average hikes for 2020.

Utah's final weighted average rate increase is a bit tricky. On the one hand, I have the hard enrollment numbers for three of the five carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market policies. On the other hand, I have no idea what the numbers are for the other two...both of which happen to have the lowest average rate drops in the state (BridgeSpan and Molina).

The weighted average of the other three carriers is a 2.3% reduction. Assuming the other two have, say, 20,000 enrollees apiece, that would knock it down another 1.5 points or so, but until I have a better idea of how many enrollees those carriers have I'll stick with the -2.3% figure.

Oklahoma has three carriers on the Individual Market these days. Once again, all three rate filing memos are redacted, but I was able to dig up the number of current policy holders for one of them (CommunityCare HMO).

The final/approved rate changes are exactly the same as the requested changes from a few months back, but I've managed to lock down the actual enrollment numbers for two of the three carriers. Assuming I'm close on the third one (Medica), the weighted average rate increase statewide should be around 2.7%:

Back in August, I posted an analysis of the preliminary 2020 premium rate filings for the ACA Individual Market here in Michigan based on the actual filing forms from each of the 11 carriers participating in the market.

At the time, I concluded that the weighted average change marketwide was a 2.1% reduction in premiums compared to 2019, for around 333,000 Michiganders on the Indy market. This would mean roughly a $10 average premium reduction per unsubsidized enrollee per month, or $122 per year:

Massachusetts, which is arguably the original birthplace of the ACA depending on your point of view (the general "3-legged stool" structure originated here, but the ACA itself also has a lot of other provisions which are quite different), has ten different carriers participating in the individual market. MA (along with Vermont and the District of Columbia) has merged their Individual and Small Group risk pools for premium setting purposes, so I'm not bothering breaking out the small group market in this case.

Getting a weighted average was a bit tricky. On the one hand, only one or two of the rate filings included actual enrollment data. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Health Connector puts out monthly enrollment reports which do break out the on-exchange numbers by carrier. This allowed me to run a rough breakout of on-exchange MA enrollment. I don't know whether the off-exchange portion has a similar ratio, but I have to assume it does for the moment.

There's only 3 states which are looking at double-digit average unsubsidized premium increases on the 2020 ACA individual market: Indiana, Vermont and Louisiana.

There's actually only 3 carriers offering individual market plans in Louisiana, but there's seven listings because two of the carriers have broken out their submissions into several different product lines. Overall, HMO LA, LA Health Service & Indemnity (Blue Cross Blue Shield of LA) and Vantage Health Plan are requesting average premium increases of 11.7% statewide.

As far as I can tell, state regulators pretty much approved all of the requested rate filings exactly as-is...the weighted average is virtually the same as it was a few months ago with the preliminary requests.

I didn't have the actual enrollment data for the individual carriers when I ran the numbers for Kansas in August, so I had to go with an unweighted average unsubsidized 2020 premium rate change. At the time, that came in at a 3.1% reduction.

Since then, I've dug up the hard enrollment numbers, and just this morning CMS finally posted the final, approved 2020 rate changes. The weighted average comes in at a slight increase o 0.3% statewide:

When I ran the numbers for Iowa's preliminary avg. 2020 unsubsidized individual market rate changes, I had to use an unweighted average reduction of around 3.3%. However, knowing the relative market share of each carrier can make a big difference.

Case in point: It turns out that Medica holds something like 97% of Iowa's ACA-compliant market...whcih means the 11.3% rate drop by Medica heavily weighs the overall average. Wellmark is raising their rates by about 4.7%, but that only nudges the statewide weighted average to a 10.8% reduction overall.

When I ran the preliminary 2020 average unsubsidized premium rate change requests for Illinois in early August, I was frustrated because I had no idea what the actual enrollment numbers for the individual carriers were, making it impossible to run a weighted average change. I had to go with an unweighted average increase of 1.4% statewide.

Fortunately, since then, not only have the final rate changes been approved and posted, I've also acquired the enrollment data, allowing for a weighted average. In the end, average unsubsidized premiums are dropping ever so slightly (0.3%)...versus going up ever so slightly (0.1%) statewide.

Hawaii only has two carriers participating in the Individual health insurance market. For 2020, they're reducing unsubsidized premiums by 4%. This is a slight reduction from the preliminary unsubsidized rate change requests from back in August.

HMSA's average dropped from a 1.6% reduction to a 3.2% reduction, while Kaiser, which had been asking for a very slight increase, will actually be lowering rates by around 5.4% in 2020.

After several years with four carriers participating in their ACA individual market, the Peach State is gaining not one but two additional carriers this year: CareSource and Oscar are joining Alliant, Ambetter/Centene, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser.

When I ran the numbers for Georgia's preliminary 2020 unsubsidized premium rate changes back in August, they were averaging a 2.4% increase.

Today, however, CMS has posted the final/approved rate changes, and three of the four carriers already on the Georgia market (Alliant, Ambetter/Centene and Kaiser) are looking at slightly lower rates than they had requested. The fourth, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is bumping up their rates by an additional percentage point. Overall, Georgia carriers are dropping unsubsidized premiums by 0.9%.

When I ran the preliminary 2020 rate changes for unsubsidized ACA policies in Alaska back in August, it was pretty easy to do...there's only a single carrier offering ACA-compliant individual market policies for 2019, which means no weighting is required. Furthermore, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield is basically keeping their rates flat for 2020 anyway.

Moda is re-entering the market for 2020, but there's no "rate change" for them since there's no base premiums to measure against year over year.

Anyway, CMS just posted the final, approved rate changes, and Premera's number is ever so slightly higher than it was: They went from a 0.05% reduction to...a 0.03% reduction.

When I first ran the preliminary 2020 ACA premium rate filing requests for Alabama in August, I came up with a weighted average increase of 3.9%.

CMS has just posted the final, approved rates for Alabama's 2 carriers (Blue Cross Blue Shield and Bright Health). Both carriers had their requested rate hikes approved without any changes, but the final weighted average for unsubsidized enrollees still dropped a bit to 3.3%...because I had the wrong market share ratios. It looks like Bright has an even smaller share of the market than I thought (less than 1%), bringing the weighted average down a bit.

I've been expecting this exact press release from Trump's HHS Dept. to drop for awhile now:

Premiums for HealthCare.gov Plans are down 4 percent but remain unaffordable to non-subsidized consumers

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the average premium for the second lowest cost silver plan on HealthCare.gov for a 27 year-old will drop by 4 percent for the 2020 coverage year. Additionally, 20 more issuers will participate in states that use the Federal Health Insurance Exchange platform in 2020 bringing the total to 175 issuers compared to 132 in 2018, delivering more choice and competition for consumers. As a result of the Trump Administration’s actions to stabilize the market, Americans will experience lower premiums along with greater choice for the second consecutive year.

Back in early August, I ran the preliminary average unsubsidized 2020 individual market rate changes in Arizona. At the time, I had the requested rate changes for both the individual and small group markets, but not the actual enrollment numbers for each carrier, so I had no way of calculating the weighted average. I instead settled for a simple unweighted average, which came in at around a 2.4% reduction in premiums on the individual market and a 5.2% increase on the small group market.

A few days ago, the Arizona Insurance Dept. released the final/approved 2020 rate changes, and there was only one significant change: Health Net of AZ (dba Arizona Complete Health), which had requested a 2.9% rate reduction, will instead be keeping their premiums flat year over year on average. With Health Net holding over 50% of the market share, this meant that the statewide average is a bit higher than I had it previously.

Back in July, the Pennsylvania Insurance Dept. posted the preliminary/requested 2020 average premium rate changes for the individual and small group markets. The ACA-compliant individual market average increase was around 4.6%; for small businesses, the average was 9.6%.

Today they finally posted the approved rate changes for each...and the indy market average has dropped to a 3.8% increase, while the small group market has gone up just a hair to 9.7%.

I posted Wisconsin's preliminary 2020 rate filings in early August. Yesterday the state insurance department posted this press release, which includes the final, approved rate changes. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed (the final statewide weighted average is a 3.2% average premium reduction over last year, thanks primarily to them implementing a fairly robust ACA Section 1332 reinsurance waiver:

​Gov. Evers Announces More Health Insurance Options for Wisconsinites in 2020 Ahead of Open Enrollment

Back in July, the Colorado Insurance Dept. announced the preliminary 2020 avg. premium rate changes for the individual and small group markets, including making the important point that their then-pending Section 1332 Reinsurance Waiver program, if approved, would cut down on unsubsidized premiums by over 18% on average (18.2%, to be precise, according to the CO DOI, although my own analysis based on the preliminary rate filings brought it in at a 17.5% reduction).

Today they announced the final, approved 2020 rate changes...and the average premium is expected to drop even lower yet:

Gov. Polis: 2020 ACA Premiums Going Down by an Average of 20.2%

The South Carolina Insurance Dept. released their final/approved 2020 Individual and Small Group Market premium rate changes a few days ago.

Previously, I only had the unweighted averages, which were a 1.9% decrease on the Indy market and an 11% increase for small group enrollees...but SCDOI has included the weighted averages for each in their approved numbers: A 3.9% drop and 7.6% increase respectively.

It's also worth noting that the Individual market is growing from three carriers to five next year--both Bright Health Co. and Molina Healthcare are joining the South Carolina market for the first time.

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