2017 Rate Changes

Chad Terhune reported today that Covered California, the largest state-run ACA exchange in the country, released their 2016-2017 fiscal year projected budget, which includes a mountain of useful enrollment data...some of which is positive, some negative and some of which depends on your POV:

California’s health insurance exchange estimates that its Obamacare premiums may rise 8 percent on average next year, which would end two consecutive years of more modest 4 percent increases.

The projected rate increase in California, included in the exchange’s proposed annual budget, comes amid growing nationwide concern about insurers seeking double-digit premium hikes in the health law’s insurance marketplaces.

...Insurers in California have submitted initial rates for 2017, but the final figures won’t be known until July after state officials conduct private negotiations.

Almost exactly 1 year ago over at healthinsurance.org, I posted the following:

May 15 officially marked the start of the 2016 rate review season. What that means for Americans is that over the next month or so, newspapers and web sites across the country will start running stories with scary-sounding headlines like this:

Some Oregonians could face major insurance rate hikes next year

Health plans request double-digit premium increases

… or, more reassuringly, like this:

Lower rate increases, more plans proposed for state’s health exchange in 2016

The articles will throw a bunch of numbers around, saying that the “average” premium rate increase for a given state is expected to be X percent, followed by examples of the highest and lowest increases. There may even be a few “Company Y will actually be reducing their rates!” thrown in.

Before you freak out, there are a few important things to look for.

A few weeks ago, I got a heads up that Virginia was the first state out of the gate with their 2017 Rate Request filings. There were some confusing numbers which took awhile to sort out, but once the dust settled, the overall weighted average rate hike requests for Virginia's entire ACA-compliant individual market came in at around 17.9%.

Some states make it next to impossible to track down this info. Others hand it to you on a silver plate. And then there are states like Oregon, who provide the average rate hike requests in a simple, easy format, but don't necessarily include the market share of those companies, making it difficult to compile a weighted average:

So, yesterday I posted my first 2017 Weighted Average Rate Hike entry, using Virginia, since they appear to be the first state to post their requested rate changes for 2017.

As you can see, while the requested rate increases stayed consistent throughout the various updates, the number of enrollees changed dramatically depending on which filing source I used. Case in point: Anthem/HealthKeepers Inc.

The first filing I found for Anthem HealthKeepers made it pretty clear that they're asking for a 15.8% average rate hike next year which is expected to potentially impact up to 122,581 policy holders:

Pretty cut & dry, right? Note that according to the filing that number covers current Anthem HealthKeepers enrollees both on and off the exchange, so it should cover all ACA-compliant policies.

In light of today's confirmation that the average 2016 premium rate increase ended up only being appx. 8% nationally on the individual market (as opposed to the headlines screaming about 40%, 50%, 60%+ rate hikes being "typical"), I've decided to get a jump on the 2017 rate changes. Someone gave me a heads up that Virginia appears to be first out of the gate this year, with requested 2017 rate filings having already been submitted by at least 8 carriers.

Now, for 2016 there are actually 13 carriers offering individual policies in Virginia (although some of these are available off-exchange only). I'm don't know if the 5 missing carriers have decided to drop out of the VA market or if they simply haven't submitted their 2017 filings yet (it looks like in Virginia the carriers technically have until July 15th to get their requests to the HHS Dept. in states which have their own rate review process, but the state itself presumably has an earlier deadline). It's also possible that some additional carriers might join the exchange and/or start offering policies in the state which don't this year.

In any event, here's what I've found so far for Virginia:

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