Iowa

Iowa

(sigh) Unfortunately, the Iowa Insurance Department is pretty much useless when it comes to individual & small group market rate filing transparency. I can't find any press releases or statements about the 2022 rate filings, they don't list the 2022 Individual market filings at all, their Small Group market filing database is available but a year out of date, and they don't even list any of the ACA-compliant plan filings in the SERFF database.

The only way I was able to find the rate changes was by using the federal Rate Review website, and even then, the actuarial memos are all heavily redacted, making it impossible to know what the enrollment for each carrier si (with one exception: Wellmark Health Plan reported having 32,000 ACA-compliant individual market enrollees as of March 2021).

Iowa

I've once again relaunched my project from last fall to track Medicaid enrollment (both standard and expansion alike) on a monthly basis for every state dating back to the ACA being signed into law.

For the various enrollment data, I'm using data from Medicaid.gov's Medicaid Enrollment Data Collected Through MBES reports. Unfortunately, they've only published enrollment data through December 2020. In some states I've been able to get more recent enrollment data from state websites and other sources.

Today I'm presenting Iowa. For enrollment data from January 2021 on, I'm relying on adjusted estimates based on raw data from the Iowa Dept. of Human Services.

Iowa

Now that I've developed a standardized format/layout & methodology for tracking both state- and county-level COVID vaccination levels by partisan lean (which can also be easily applied to other variables like education level, median income, population density, ethnicity, etc), I've started moving beyond my home state of Michigan.

Here's Iowa. 

UPDATED 5/29/21: In addition to updating the data as of 5/29, I've also changed the Y-Axis scale to match every other state (it now runs from 0 - 70% for consistency).

Gold Bars

NOTE: This is an updated version of a post from a couple of months ago. Since then, there's been a MASSIVELY important development: The passage of the American Rescue Plan, which includes a dramatic upgrade in ACA subsidies for not only the millions of people already receiving them, but for millions more who didn't previously qualify for financial assistance.

Much has been written by myself and others (especially the Kaiser Family Foundation) about the fact that millions of uninsured Americans are eligible for ZERO PREMIUM Bronze ACA healthcare policies.

I say "Zero Premium" instead of "Free" because there's still deductibles and co-pays involved, although all ACA plans also include a long list of free preventative services from physicals and blood screenings to mammograms and immunizations with no deductible or co-pay involved.

Much has been written by myself and others (especially the Kaiser Family Foundation) about the fact that millions of uninsured Americans are eligible for ZERO PREMIUM Bronze ACA healthcare policies.

I say "Zero Premium" instead of "Free" because there's still deductibles and co-pays involved, although all ACA plans also include a long list of free preventative services from physicals and blood screenings to mammograms and immunizations with no deductible or co-pay involved.

If you have a fairly healthy year, you really could go the entire year without paying a dime in healthcare costs while still taking advantage of many of these free services, and also having the peace of mind that in a worst-case scenario, at least you wouldn't go bankrupt. Not perfect, but a lot better than going bare especially since you wouldn't pay a dime in premiums.

Normally by early October I have the preliminary rate filings analyzed & posted for nearly every state and the approved rate changes for at least half of them. This year I'm lagging way behind for several reasons, some personal, some professional.

Having said that, I'm trying to play catch-up this week. Case in point, today I'm posting Iowa's preliminary individual and small group market filings for 2021.

Wellmark is dropping their premiums by a jaw-dropping 42% next year, which would normally be a huge story except that they only have around 3,000 Iowans enrolled to begin with (which may explain the massive rate drop, of course). Oscar Insurance appears to be expanding into the Iowa individual market, while Medica continues to hold nearly 95% of the market and is only raising premiums by around 2.5%. Overall, 2021 rates are essentially flat on averae.

The small group market is much the same...there's a bunch of carriers which only have a few dozen enrollees statewide, and four which hold over 90% of the market share (realistically more like 2-3 carriers depending on how you define UnitedHealthcare and Wellmark subsidiaries).

When I ran the numbers for Iowa's preliminary avg. 2020 unsubsidized individual market rate changes, I had to use an unweighted average reduction of around 3.3%. However, knowing the relative market share of each carrier can make a big difference.

Case in point: It turns out that Medica holds something like 97% of Iowa's ACA-compliant market...whcih means the 11.3% rate drop by Medica heavily weighs the overall average. Wellmark is raising their rates by about 4.7%, but that only nudges the statewide weighted average to a 10.8% reduction overall.

(SIGH) OK, apparently the Kaiser Family Foundation has been working on the same project as I have for the past couple of weeks, so most of this is no longer "exclusive". HOWEVER, I have additional details including individual carrier breakouts and projections for potential 2019 rebates, so there's that...

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.

(sigh) As is common this year, the rate filings for Iowa's Individual and Small Group market are heavily redacted, making it impossible to calculate a weighted average premium rate change. On the Indy market, Medica is reducing their unsubsidized 2020 premiums by 11.3%, while Wellmark is raising theirs by around 4.8%.

Seeing how Wellmark only re-entered the ACA-compliant individual market this year, I'm assuming Medica has the lion's share of enrollees...but who knows? Also, Wellmark is offering two different types of policies; I'm assuming that at most the two combine to be similar to Medica's total. If so, that should mean an average premium reduction of around 3.3%.

For the small group market, I just ran an unweighted average of the 12 different companies offering policies, coming up woth an average 5.4% increase.

There is one interesting tidbit in the Wellmark filing, however: They expect 100% of their 2020 enrollees to do so on-exchange, which basically means that their unsubsidized premiums have gone up so much that they don't expect anyone to be willing to pay full price (off-exchange) for them.

 

I've included the transcript below, but words can't accurately describe the tone of voice or the body language of Grassley in the actual video, so I'll just urge everyone to watch it.

WOMAN: "What is your plan to keep millions of Americans like myself covered? Those of us with pre-existing conditions, people who are on their parents insurance, and again, people like myself who need life-guaranteeing medication? We could lose our insurance and I'd probably be dead in 2 months."

GRASSLEY: "Well, there's a...there's a lot of, uh...and she's asking only because the courts may declare [the ACA] unconstitutional. Now, I don't think that the courts are going to declare it unconstitutional..."

WOMAN: "You voted seven times to repeal it."

GRASSLEY: (pause) "Yes."

WOMAN: "Why? What are you going to do for people on the ACA?"

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