Delaware

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 They're requesting a 13.0% average rate increase for 2019, and yes, they call out both the individual mandate being repealed and #ShortAssPlans being expanded by Trump and the GOP.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.

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