Idaho

A week or so ago there was an important ruling by a federal judge which shot down Medicaid expansion work requirements in two states (Arkansas and Kentucky) while also having a ripple effect in two more (Idaho and Iowa):

The [Idaho] Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 7-2 to hold in committee a House bill that would create a work requirement for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries — after lawmakers found out during the hearing that a federal judge had just struck down Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Meanwhile, a Senate bill that would create a voluntary job training requirement for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries is still in that chamber’s amending order and could come up soon. The Medicaid budget for 2019-2020 is still being held in the full House. And Gov. Brad Little has said he won’t let lawmakers adjourn for the year until Medicaid expansion and funding is resolved.

So much crazy healthcare policy/legal news is happening this week I'm having trouble keeping up.

This happened yesterday:

BREAKING: federal judge strikes down Kentucky's Medicaid work requirements. Again. Remands them back to HHS

— Nathaniel Weixel (@NateWeixel) March 27, 2019

Same judge also strikes down work requirements in Arkansas

— Nathaniel Weixel (@NateWeixel) March 27, 2019

And since I was too swamped with other stuff, I didn't have a chance to write about it until now. A bunch of other outlets have already posted the details, so here's Dylan Scott of Vox.com to save me the trouble:

A federal district judge has blocked Medicaid work requirements approved by the Trump administration in Arkansas and Kentucky.

Ugh:

CMS gives thumbs-up to Medicaid work requirements in Ohio

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has approved a waiver request for work requirements in Ohio’s Medicaid program.

...CMS rolled out guidance on these waivers in January 2018, and since then eight states, including Ohio, have had requests approved. Several additional states have submitted waivers that the agency has yet to weigh in on.

...Arkansas is the only state where such work requirements have formally been launched, and in the last several months of 2018, more than 18,000 people lost Medicaid coverage as a result of the work requirement. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that most of these losses were a result of the administrative requirements associated with reporting work hours.

Double Ugh:

I'm rather late to the game on this issue, but it looks like the story is already making major headlines elsewhere so I don't feel too bad; via Robert Pear of the NY Times:

In Utah and Idaho, G.O.P. Looks to Curb Medicaid Expansions That Voters Approved

The voters of Utah and Idaho, two deeply Republican states, defied the will of their political leaders in November and voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Now those leaders are striking back, moving to roll back the expansions — with encouragement, they say, from the Trump administration.

Utah’s ballot measure, approved with support from 53 percent of voters, would expand Medicaid to cover people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level — up to about $16,750 a year for an individual — and pay the state’s share with a small increase of the sales tax. Under the ballot initiative, 150,000 people are expected to gain coverage, starting April 1.

Now that I've brought everyone up to speed about my disappearing act, it's time to delve back into the ACA & healthcare developments of the past few weeks. There've been quite a few to talk about, but for now I'll just focus on updating the OE6 enrollment books a bit...starting with one of the two states which, until now, hasn't provided any 2019 enrollment data: Idaho.

According to this press release from December 28th, Your Health Idaho, their ACA exchange, not only surpassed last year's enrollment total of 94,507 QHP selections by over 9%, they managed to break their all-time enrollment record of 101,073 set back in 2016:

More than 103,000 Idahoans Enroll in Health Insurance for the 2019 Plan Year

OK, this "news" isn't remotely worth a full blog entry, but what the heck; Idaho has been radio silent since Open Enrollment started, so any news out of the Great Potato state is welcome:

Deadline to Apply for Health Insurance for the 2019 Plan Year is Dec. 15

  • Nine in 10 Idahoans Qualify for a Tax Credit to Help Lower Monthly Premiums

BOISE, Idaho – Idahoans wanting health insurance coverage starting on January 1, only have a few days left to enroll in a plan for 2019 with Your Health Idaho, the state’s health insurance exchange. Idahoans must complete their application by midnight, December 15 in order to have coverage at the start of the new year. In response to high demand, Your Health Idaho is extending its support center hours to help customers enroll or answer any questions.

Again, I realize that doesn't mean much of anything on its own; I haven't a clue what counts as "high demand" in Idaho or how it differs from prior years. Still, it does suggest that things are running smoothly at the Idaho exchange.

I just realized that while I've written quite a bit about the potential loss of Medicaid coverage for thousands of residents of Michigan, Kentucky and Arkansas over the past few months due to the new work requirement laws in those states, It's been far too long since I've given a shout-out to the four states which are hoping to add Medicaid expansion (or at least continue it, in one case) exactly one week from today.

Bloomberg News has a pretty good overview:

For years, elected leaders in conservative states have resisted expanding Medicaid, the government health program for low-income Americans. Now voters in four of those states will decide the question directly.

Last month, the Idaho Insurance Department posted the preliminary 2019 ACA individual market rate change requests. They were pretty straightforward, averaging around an 8% increase across the market.

A few days ago, the Idaho DOI issued their final/approved rate changes, knocking a few points off the hikes and bringing the weighted average increase down to 5%:

The Department of Insurance received preliminary 2019 health plan information from insurance carriers on June 1 and began reviewing the proposed plan documents and rates for compliance with Idaho and federal regulations. The Department of Insurance does not have the authority to set or establish insurance rates, but it does have the authority to deem rate increases submitted by insurance companies as reasonable or unreasonable. After the review and negotiation process, the carriers submit their final rate 2019 increase information. The public is invited to provide comments on the rate changes. Please send any comments to Idaho Department of Insurance.

Idaho's insurance department website displays their annual rate filing summaries in a unique way--they don't publish the actual enrollment numbers, but they do post breakouts of the rate hikes for different metal levels (handy!) as well as the premiums brought in and claims paid out, which gives some refreshing insight into just how profitable (or not) some fo the carriers are (if I'm reading the screenshot correctly, it looks to me like BCBS and Mountain Health did just fine last year, but the other three carriers ended up in the hole (especially SelectHealth...ouch).

The state website also claims the overall weighted averge rate increase being requested in 8% even though my own spreadsheet brings it in at 9.4%. This could be due to my misestimating SelectHealth's enrollment number, or it could be because Regence Blue Shield cays they're raising rates 3.9% but the state claims it's 7% (although that should actually result in a higher average from the state, not lower...)

I know this is like the third "It's on the ballot!" post I've written regarding Medicaid expansion in Idaho, but this time it appears to be for real...almost:

BOISE — A Medicaid expansion proposal has passed the signature threshold, officials confirmed on Thursday, but said further review is needed before it gets on the November ballot.

Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane says county clerks across the state have verified roughly 58,000 signatures that organizers submitted earlier this month.

The effort needed at least 56,192 signatures to qualify. However, those signatures must also come from 6 percent of the registered voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

McGrane says it’ll be up to the state to determine if the signatures meet the legislative district requirements.

Reclaim Idaho, the group that organized the Medicaid expansion effort, did not immediately return a request for comment.

As noted earlier, I've been a bit lax with posting for a few days as I've worked on my latest 2-part video explainer about risk pools and #ShortAssPlans.

However, there's been a lot going on, so I figured I should try and at least do a quick update on a few items. First up: Medicaid expansion!

Here in my home state of Michigan, I've written several posts about how the GOP-controlled state legislature trying to shove through a draconian "work requirement" bill for Healthy Michigan, our name for ACA Medicaid expansion program which has been working just fine, thank you very much, for nearly 5 years now. The bill easily passed the state Senate (where the GOP holds a supermajority), and is now under consideration by the state House (where they have a smaller but still solid majority at the moment). The good news is that GOP Governor Rick Snyder--who championed passage of Healthy Michigan in the first place and seems to think it's fine mostly the way it is--is likely to veto the senate version of the bill. The bad news is that it might simply be tweaked somewhat by the House.

A week or so I noted that activists in Utah had managed to secure enough ballot petition signatures to get full, no-strings-attached ACA Medicaid expansion placed on the ballot this November...superseding legislation signed by the Governor which would otherwise only expand it to fewer than half as many people, while also imposing a work requirement on enrollees:

If approved, the initiative would require the state to expand Medicaid to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and would prohibit enrollment caps.

Under ObamaCare, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the costs of expansion. The state share would be funded through a 0.15 percent increase in the sales tax.

...The ballot initiative would cover more than 150,000 people.

Well, today it looks like residents of Idaho will also have a chance to decide whether or not they want ACA Medicaid expansion as well:

Reclaim Idaho meets signature goal, marches on

Five weeks ago, when Idaho Governor "Butch" Otter announced that Idaho had decided to basically just blow off federal law altogether and start offering non-ACA compliant health insurance policies on the individual market alongside the compliant versions, I wrote:

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure I understand why Idaho would do this. Yes, of course the deep red state government opposes the ACA in general and sure, they want to "lower premiums" on the individual market, but Trump's recent "ShortAss Plan" executive order would do pretty much the same thing (allowing non-ACA compliant off-exchange "Short Term/Association Plans" which amount to the same thing...without putting GOP Gov. Butch Otter's fingerprints all over the ugly stories which would soon follow if/when people started actually enrolling in these types of policies. Besides, as much as Idaho claims to hate the ACA, they seem to be quite proud (and rightly so) of their own state-based ACA exchange, Your Health Idaho.

Well, it sounds like CMS Administrator Seema Verma was thinking along the same lines, because this unexpected story broke a few hours ago: Verma sent a letter to Otter and his state Insurance Commissioner shooting down their "state-based plans" idea as being flat-out illegal.

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

--Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Over a year and a half ago, I noticed that aside from the usual names being listed as insurance carriers offering individual market policies in various states (Humana, Molina, Blue Cross Blue Shield, etc), there was one other name which kept popping up over and over again: "Freedom Life":

Freedom's just another word for..."better not get sick."

In Idaho, "Freedom" comes with limits
— Zachary Tracer (@ZTracer) February 14, 2018

— Katherine Hempstead (@khemp64) February 14, 2018

Two weeks ago, Idaho Governor "Butch" Otter issued an executive order allowing insurance carriers to basically just ignore federal law altogether and start offering non-ACA compliant healthcare policies. As Sarah Kliff of Vox.com noted at the time:

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