2020 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

Delaware

MLR rebate payments for 2018 are being sent out to enrollees even as I type this. The data for 2018 MLR rebates won't be officially posted for another month or so, but I've managed to acquire it early, and after a lot of number-crunching the data, I've recompiled it into an easy-to-read format.

But that's not all! In addition to the actual 2018 MLR rebates, I've gone one step further and have taken an early crack at trying to figure out what 2019 MLR rebates might end up looking like next year (for the Individual Market only). In order to do this, I had to make several very large assumptions:

 

I wrote last month that Highmark BCBS, the sole individual market carrier operating in Delaware, has requested a 5.8% average premium reduction for 2020. In the press release from the state insurance department they noted:

It is important to note, that the proposed rate decrease is unrelated to Delaware’s intended submission of a 1332 Waiver to establish a reinsurance program. If the application process is successful, the actuarial consultant’s projections are correct, and the State of Delaware secures adequate funding, the waiver program may decrease rates by an additional 20%.

Well, today CMS indeed approved that ACA Section 1332 Reinsurance program waiver:

This Just In from the Delaware Insurance Dept...

Dover, DE -- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware (Highmark BCBS) has submitted its required annual rate filing to the Delaware Department of Insurance. After years of substantial increases, Delaware’s Marketplace has stabilized and premiums have decreased. Highmark BCBS, the only insurer continuing to offer insurance coverage in Delaware’s individual market, has proposed a 5.8% decrease for 2020. The proposed 2020 rate decrease will affect over 20,000 Delawareans.

The decrease comes after last year’s 3% rate increase and the Department’s decision to silver load. By applying the rate increase to silver level plans only, a practice known as ‘silver-loading,’ Delaware’s Marketplace received more federal subsidies, helping to assist in stabilizing the market and lowering premiums.

 

via Delaware Business Now:

Legislation calls for reinsurance program to aid people with extremely high health insurance premiums

Lawmakers have introduced legislation this week that would create a reinsurance program to help lower the cost of premiums for Delawareans who do not get insurance through their employers.

House Bill 176, which has no Republican co-sponsors, would stabilize the individual health insurance market and help Delawareans struggling with extremely highhealthcare costs to get relief, a release from House Democrats stated.

Huh. This is very odd. Delaware has only a single insurance carrier, Highmark, participating in the individual market next year. They requested an average 2019 rate increase of 13%.

Not only was 13% the amount on the filing form itself, it's also the average increase requested according to the summary at RateReview.HealthCare.Gov:

Delaware is pretty cut & dried: There's only one carrier, Highmark, offering ACA policies in the state. They're requesting a 13.0% average rate increase for 2019, and yes, they call out both the individual mandate being repealed and #ShortAssPlans being expanded by Trump and the GOP.

Unfortunately, they've redacted the specific percentages caused by those factors. The Urban Institute pegs it at 19.9%, but I err on the side of caution and only assume 2/3 of that amount, or right around...13%. If accurate, that means Highmark BCBSD would be keeping rates pretty much flat next year if those changes hadn't been made.

This Just In...

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield's 2018 Affordable Care Act marketplace prices will rise by 25 percent, less than it had requested.

The insurer had asked the Department of Insurance for a 33.6 percent increase in June, one month after Aetna announced it would pull out of Delaware's marketplace. The withdrawal will end its coverage of 11,854 Delawareans and make Highmark the only insurance provider in the Delaware marketplace. 

...Right now, about 27,000 Delawareans have health insurance through the marketplace. The rate increases will not affect Medicare, Medicaid or coverage by private and government employers. 

...Highmark's rate request was based on the uncertain future of Obamacare, especially whether the federal government would or would not enforce the mandate that makes uninsured people either opt in or pay a tax penalty, or continue to make the cost sharing reduction payments, which helps reduce prices for low-income Americans.

Calculating the average requested rate hike in Delaware is easier than most states. This year they officially have 5 carriers participating in the individual market (3 on exchange, 2 off)...but one of those is "Freedom Life" which is a phantom carrier; another is Golden Rule which only has about 120 enrollees; and two of the others are divisions of Aetna, which is dropping out of Delaware's indy market next year altogether. That leaves just Highmark BCBS, unless Golden Rule has surprised me by enrolling a significant number of people off-exchange this year.

Today the Delaware Dept. of Insurance issued this press release:

Highmark Requests 2018 Health Insurance Rate Increase of 33.6%

Date Posted: Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Hardly surprising given they made good on their "Give us our merger or we're out of here!" threat last year, followed by further drop-outs from both Iowa and Virginia announced for next year over the past few weeks, but the final Aetna shoe has just dropped:

.@Aetna will not offer on- or off-exchange individual plans in DE or NE for 2018, and at this time has completely exited the exchanges.

— T.J. Crawford (@TJatAetna) May 10, 2017

T.J. Crawford is apparently Aetna's head of media relations, so yeah, that seems pretty definitive.

A bit more courtesy of Peter Sullivan of The Hill:

In Delaware, assuming 30,000 people enroll in private exchange policies by the end of January, I estimate around 20,000 of them would be forced off of their private policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal, plus another 10,000 enrolled in the ACA Medicaid expansion program (PPT), for a total of 30,000 residents kicked to the curb.

As for the individual market, my standard methodology applies:

My original estimate for the average unsubsidized rate hikes for Delaware's individual market back in June was 30.6%. Today the DE Dept. of Insurance issued their final approved rates, including the small group market:

Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart today released Delaware’s Qualified Health Plan average rates for Plan Year 2017.

The Commissioner recommended approval of a 32.5 % average rate increase in the individual market for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware. The approved average rate increase for the small group market for Highmark’s plans is 2.74%.

Aetna Life Insurance Company received an average of 22.8 % increase in the individual market and Aetna Health Insurance Company received an average increase of 23.6 %. In the small group market, Aetna Life received an average increase of 15.2 % and Aetna Health received an average increase of 19.7 %.

Delaware is a small state, and only has a total of 4 carriers offering individual polcies (2 on exchange, 2 off). One of those, however, is once again "Freedom Life" which, once again, is asking for precisely a 17.37% rate hike on their almost-certain-to-be-nonexistent enrollees. So...never mind them. That leaves Aetna (split into HMOs and PPOs) and Highmark BCBS offering policies on the exchange, and Golden Rule off the exchange.

Unfortunately, I can't find Golden Rule's actual current enrollment number, but as you can see below, it really doesn't matter:

As you can see, no matter how many enrollees Golden Rule has, their 30.3% average hike request is very close to the 30.6% average of the other carriers. The very most it could do is nudge the weighted average down by a tenth of a point or two, so let's call it 30.5%. 

There's an old saying: Figures lie and liars figure. Statistics and percentages are a funny thing; as politicians of every stripe know, you can often twist them to mean whatever you like, especially when you don't provide proper (or sometimes any) context whatsoever. Case in point: Yesterday's embarrassingly dishonest "chart" presented by Representative Jason Chaffetz at the Planned Parenthood witchhunt committee hearing.

For a less inflamatory example of this, consider the headline of this entry:

Delaware: *Approved* 2016 rate hikes reduced by 11.4%!!

At first glance, of course, it looks like I'm saying that after going through the regulatory approval process, the individual health insurance premium rates in Delaware are being reduced by 11.4% next year! Hooray!

Delaware's 2016 rate hike analysis is about as simple and straightforward as it gets: Two companies (Aetna and Highmark BCBS) for both the individual and small group market, both on- and off-exchange, period...and their website includes the actual affected enrollee tallies for each, giving weighted totals:

Ugh. Nearly 25% requested for the individual market, just under 10% for the small group market. Of course these are requests only, so they might be slashed somewhat by regulators yet.

THIS JUST IN...

CMS today conditionally approved Delaware and Pennsylvania to operate State-based Marketplaces (SBMs)" #kingvburwell @charles_gaba

— Dan Mangan (@_DanMangan) June 15, 2015

Obama administration has approved Pennsylvania and Delaware’s blueprints to become state-based ACA exchanges next year.

— Dylan Scott (@dylanlscott) June 15, 2015

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