Healthcare.Gov

Last Thanksgiving, regular readers may recall that I went on a bit of a rant regarding the annual Notice of Benefit & Payments Parameters, which is a yearly collection of administrative tweaks made by the CMS Administator regarding the specific way in which a slew of ACA policies are actually implemented.

Out of the dozen or so rule changes included in the 2022 NBPP, several of them were perfectly reasonable; several were fairly nominal or neutral...and several of them should have set off red flags everywhere for the incoming Biden Administration, including:

  • Allowing states to flat-out privatize their ACA marketplaces
  • Pushing navigators and assisters to use private, 3rd-party direct enrollment brokers
  • Codifying the Trump Administration's warped interpretation of ACA Section 1332 waivers

There's also a couple of rules in the 2022 NBPP which I opposed, but which won't cause too much damage (at least relative to the three above):

Three years ago, I posted what seemed to be a fairly naive question:

All of this brings me to my question:

  • Last summer the Trump administration announced that they were slashing their advertising budget by 90%, from $100 million to just $10 million.
  • They also announced that they were slashing $23 million out of the navigator/outreach program for open enrollment.
  • That means they cut HealthCare.Gov's total budget by $113 million.

So my question is this: Where exactly did that money go?

For that matter, assuming HC.gov is set to bring in $300 million more this year, but doesn't plan on reinstating that $113 million for advertising/outreach, doesn't that mean they should be profiting by over $400 million? Again, if so, where is that money going?

Rancid Turkey

UPDATE: It looks like the 2022 NBPP will be open for Public Comment starting on December 4th and ending on December 30th at 5pm. This is obviously 4 days shorter than the typical 30-day minimum, and it includes Christmas Eve & Christmas Day as well. I've been informed that this is technically legal as allowing a minimum of 30 days is a guideline, not requirement...but it sure wouldn't look good if the rule is brought in front of a judge.

The Affordable Care Act includes a long list of codified instructions about what's required under the law. However, like any major piece of legislation, many of the specific details are left up to the agency responsible for implementing the law.

Back in March & April, I wrote a lot about COVID-19 Special Enrollment Periods...and especially about the fact that the largest ACA exchange of all, HealthCare.Gov, kept refusing to do so in spite of massive pressure from governors, members of Congress and nearly every advocacy group under the sun, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even the health insurance industry itself...which is especially remarkable given that it was BCBSA & AHIP who insisted on cracking down on Special Enrollment Periods in the first place a few years earlier.

On March 31st, I posted the following:

Back in April, in the midst of the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through much of the nation, there was a loud outcry for the various ACA health insurance exchanges, including the federal exchange at HealthCare.Gov which hosts enrollment for over 3 dozen states, to re-open enrollment to anyone who missed the official Open Enrollment Period which had ended several months earlier.

Eventually, twelve of the thirteen state-based exchanges did just that, launching COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods of varying time periods for any resident who would normally be eligible to enroll during Open Enrollment to do so. Many of those SBEs would go on to extend the deadlines of their SEPs by a month...or two months...or even more. As of this writing, in fact, California, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia are are still offering "open" COVID-19 SEPs.

For the past few months, I've been keeping track, to the best of my ability, of how many people have been enrolling in ACA exchange policies utilizing the COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods which have been offered by 12 of the 13 state-based exchanges (SBEs). My most recent update brings the grand total of confirmed SEP enrollments to at least 260,000 across 8 states, averaging around 3,500 per day.

The actual number is obviously higher than this, of course, since I don't have any data from the other four state exchanges (DC, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont), although three of those four are pretty small anyway...and even in New York, their unique "Essential Plan" (the Basic Health Plan program established under the ACA itself) has likely been sucking up the bulk of individual market enrollees earning up to 200% FPL anyway...and you can enroll in the Essential Plan year-round regardless of the pandemic. I therefore doubt that NY's COVID SEP numbers for those earning more than 200% FPL are that dramatic. All told, I'd expect NY, RI, VT & DC to only add perhaps another 25,000 or so QHP enrollees to the table below:

I've been making a LOT of fuss lately about how important it is for CMS Administrator Seema Verma to give the green light to an official "Open" COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period (SEP) via the federal ACA exchange (HealthCare.Gov). Last week I projected that if every state were to offer a full 60-day "open" SEP ("open" means that any uninsured U.S. citizen or eligible documented resident could sign up without requiring a Qualifying Life Event), somewhere between 2.5 - 3.3 million Americans would likely enroll during that 2-month period.

Of that number, I projected that around 1.8 - 2.3 million additional people would likely reside in the 38 states hosted by HealthCare.Gov, with the remainder living in the 12 states which are offering COVID-specific SEPs (although the deadlines in those states vary, and some do require enrollees to jump through at least minimal hoops to enroll).

For over a month now, I (and many, many others) have been pleading with HHS Secretary Alex Azar, CMS Administrator Seema Verma and CMS itself to launch a formal, "open" COVID-19 specific Special Enrollment Period for the millions of people living in the 38 states hosted by HealthCare.Gov who are uninsured but who don't qualify for Medicaid, CHIP or other "year-round enrollment" programs such as the Essential Plan in New York, MinnesotaCare in Minnesota or ConnectorCare in Massachusetts. Even the insurance industry--which normally hates letting people enroll at any time outside of the official Open Enrollment Period--has been calling for them to do so.

Yesterday I ran an exclusive analysis based on existing COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period (SEP) data to figure out a) roughly how many Americans are likely to enroll in ACA exchange coverage using this SEP in the twelve states offering one, and b) how many additional Americans would likely #GetCovered via ACA exchange policies in the other 39 states which don't currently have a CV19 SEP in place.

As I've explained before, while pretty much anyone who loses their employer-based health insurance is automatically eligible for a normal 60-day Special Enrollment Period regardless of what state they live in, under the current pandemic/mass layoff situation, the standard "loss of coverage" SEP is a red tape nightmare under Trump Administration regulations since you have to provide hard-to-get documentation of your status and have it verified by CMS, which can take weeks.

4/16/20: Important Update at bottom!

With all the anger at CMS Administrator Seema Verma, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and of course Donald Trump himself over CMS's refusal (to date) to open up a COVID-19 specific Special Enrollment Period on the federal ACA exchange (HealthCare.Gov), last week I decided to try and figure out just how many people are enrolling across the 12 state-based exchanges which are offering CV19 SEPs...and just as importantly, how many people would likely take advantage of a CV19-specific SEP on the federal exchange if and when they ever decide to go ahead and launch one.

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