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.
Unfortunately, the actual actuarial filing memos ("Part II Justification") weren't available as of this writing, so I couldn't tell whether there's any COVID-19 impact specifically mentioned or not. Montana is one of the states with the fewest casese of COVID per capita, so I wasn't expecting much, but it would be nice to know.
Today I checked again and it looks like they've not only posted the Actuarial Memos (which don't mention COVID-19 at all, as I expected), but it also looks like Montana is the first state to publish their final/approved 2021 rate changes as well. They also modified the estimated enrollment numbers somewhat. Here's what it looks like now:
Last year, thanks to the Section 1332 Reinsurance waiver allowed for by the ACA, Montana health insurance carriers reduced their premiums for 2020 by 13.1% on average on the individual market, while raising them by 7% on the small group market (which the reinsurance program doesn't impact).
I've only written about Montana State Auditor (which includes acting as the Insurance Commissioner, as far as I can tell) Matt Rosendale a couple of times before. The first was in October/November 2017, when he pulled a cynical, disingenuous dick move by deliberately framing a non-profit insurance carrier into losing money for purely political reasons:
Montana commissioner chides insurance companies for raising rates, despite earlier offers to help
BOZEMAN — Montana's insurance commissioner chided two companies for raising rates on health insurance policies offered under the Affordable Care Act after federal subsidies ended, despite earlier telling them they could modify their rates if circumstances changed, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
...Matt Rosendale said he was "extremely disheartened" that PacificSource and the Co-op increased their premiums, adding that he had been assured by the companies that with or without the cost-sharing reduction payments they would be able to honor the rates they first submitted.
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:
REINSURANCE LOWERS HEALTH INSURANCE RATES FOR 2020
New Program Championed by Rosendale Leads to Double-Digit Rate Decreases in the Individual Market
HELENA, Mont. – State Auditor Matt Rosendale announced today that every health insurance plan sold on the individual market in Montana will have lower rates next year, largely due a new program that he’s championed for the past two years.
Insurance companies offering individual and small group health insurance plans are required to file proposed rates with the Montana State Auditor’s Department of Insurance for review and before plans can be sold to consumers.
What is rate review?
The rate review process, established by the Montana Legislature in 2013, does not give the Commissioner the authority to disapprove rates or prevent them from taking affect. It does give the commissioner the chance to review the factors insurance companies use in setting rates.
If the commissioner finds a rate increase to be excessive or unjustified, the insurer can voluntarily lower the rate increase. If the insurer decides to use the rate anyway, the commissioner will issue a public finding announcing that the rate is unjustified.
HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock has signed legislation meant to lower premiums for Montana customers who receive health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace.
Bullock signed the bill Tuesday creating a reinsurance program to help reimburse insurers for high-cost claims so those costs aren’t included in determining individual marketplace premiums for the following year.
U.S. health officials also must approve the plan, which is estimated to offset 2020 premium increases by 10% to 20%.
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.
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.