As I noted a few weeks ago, I haven't written a whole lot about the idiotic (but terrifyingly so) TexasFoldEm lawsuit in awhile. Part of this is because I was out of the country over the holidays; part is because there hasn't been a whole lot of movement on the case since right-wing federal Judge Reed O'Connor ruled that the ACA was unconstitutional using a legal argument so thin it hula hoops with a Cheerio.
I ran the numbers for Nevada's preliminary 2019 ACA individual market rate changes back in July. At the time, the average requested rate increase was around 2.3% statewide.
With the 2019 Open Enrollment Period coming up fast, I checked on the approved rate changes and found that state regulators had cut down on the rates quite a bit...although mostly for carriers which only offer off-exchange plans and only have small numbers of enrollees anyway.
For instance, HMO Colorado (dba HMO Nevada) originally requested a 20.9% increase; this was reduced to 9.5%...but they only have 200 people enrolled anyway, so it's not even a rounding error. Rocky Mountain was cut from 34.4% to 18.5%...but only has 300 enrollees, and so on.
The three carriers which hold the vast bulk of the market had far less dramatic changes, although Silver Summit was cut from a 5.2% increase to a 1.1% decrease for 2019.
The cost of plans through Nevada’s health insurance exchange are anticipated to only increase by an average of 1.9 percent next year in what the state’s insurance commissioner said is the lowest proposed rate increase from insurance companies since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014.
The announcement, made by the Division of Insurance late Tuesday morning, comes amid ongoing uncertainty about the impact that Congress’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and federal rule changes for two types of non-ACA-compliant health plans will have on the individual market as a whole. Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson cautioned that the proposed rates are subject to change based on any action by the federal government and said the division is working “diligently” to review the proposed rates from insurance companies.
That 1.9% figure is slightly misleading, though, because...
On October 1st, 2013, the first Open Enrollment Period (OE1) under the Affordable Care Act kicked off to much hoopla. As everyone knows, the largest of the ACA exchange websites, HealthCare.Gov, infamously melted down at launch due to a multitude of hardware and software problems ranging from insufficient server capacity to poor workflow design to buggy coding and much, much more. However, as Steven Brill detailed in the March 10, 2014 issue of Time magazine, by early December, the worst of the problems had been resolved, and by the time the second Open Enrollment Period came along a year later, HealthCare.Gov had been completely overhauled, with additional improvements and enhancements every year since.
The difference has been dramatic: On October 1, 2013, only six people (not six thousand or six hundred...six) were able to actually make it all the way through the HC.gov interface and enroll in a healthcare policy. On December 15, 2016, six hundred and seventy thousand enrolled.
Needless to say, they found that the vast majority of the state insurance regulators and/or carriers themselves are pinning a large chunk (and in some cases, nearly all) of the rate hikes for next year specifically on Trump administration sabotage efforts...primarily uncertainty over CSR payment reimbursements and, to a lesser extent, uncertainty over enforcement of the individual mandate penalty.
A week ago, Vox's Sarah Kliff reported that the Trump Administration was slashing the 2018 Open Enrollment Period advertising budget by 90% and the navigator/outreach grant budget by nearly 40%. As I noted at the time, the potential negative impact of these moves on enrollment numbers this fall--coming on top of the period being slashed in half, the CSR reimbursement and mandate enforcement sabotage efforts of the Trump/Price HHS Dept. and the general confusion and uncertainty being felt by the GOP spending the past 7 months desperately attempting to repeal the ACA altogether could be significant. In states utilizing the federal exchange (HealthCare.Gov), 2017 enrollment was running neck & neck with 2016 right up until the critical final week...which played out under the Trump Administration, which killed off the final ad/marketing blitz.
Result? A 5.3% total enrollment drop (or 4.7% if you don't include Louisiana, which expanded Medicaid halfway through the year) via HC.gov, while the 12 state-based exchanges--which run their own marketing/advertising budgets--saw a 1.8% increase in total enrollment year over year.
Nevada is the final state to post their requested rate hikes for 2018 (or at least they're the last one I tracked down, anyway). I've now done at least a rough analysis of all 50 states + DC, and while some of the data is a bit outdated (remember, I started doing this back in late April/early May), most of it should still be fairly close to the present situation...at least in terms of requested rate hikes.
In Nevada, after much concern that a bunch of rural counties wouldn't have any exchange carriers at all, Centene stepped in to cover them. They aren't listed in the table below, but since I believe they're new to the state, that shouldn't matter in terms of rate increases since there's no base rates to compare against anyway.
So, I got back from my trip to the NIHCM awards dinner in DC late last night, and am groggily attempting to bone up on all the healthcare stuff which happened while I was gone (ironic, of course, given that I was attending a healthcare-related event filled with other healthcare wonks/reporters).
12. LEGALLY TIE MEDICARE ADVANTAGE/MANAGED MEDICAID CONTRACTS TO EXCHANGE PARTICIPATION.
Andrew Sprung, Michael Hiltzik and I have all written about this before. I have no idea whether it's even legally feasible/practical or not, but if so, it makes a lot of sense to me: Remember, many of the same carriers whning about losing hundreds of millions of dollars on the individual market are simultaneously making billions of dollars in profit off of their other divisions...which include fat federal and state contracts to manage Medicare and/or Medicaid plans. If they want to play in the managed care sandbox, make exchange participation a requirement as well. I'm not saying they should have to treat it as a loss leader--they'd still be able to raise their premiums at an actuarially responsible rate as appropriate--but they should have to at least participate.
As far as I can tell, even the amazing Louise Norris hasn't caught this one yet (and it's a month old, too!). If I'm wrong and she has done a write-up on it, of course, I'll eat my words:
Medicaid for all
Democratic [Nevada] Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle has introduced a bill, AB374, to open up the state’s Medicaid program to anyone, regardless of their income level.
Individuals would be able to purchase coverage through Medicaid on the healthcare exchange for an annual premium set at 150 percent of the median expenditure paid on behalf of Medicaid enrollees in the preceding fiscal year. Though none of the current federal or state dollars going to fund Medicaid would be used to cover any portion of the new enrollees, they would still be entitled to the same benefits provided to other Medicaid recipients.
In Nevada, , 89,000 people enrolled in exchange policies as of the end of January. Of these, I estimate around 62,000 of them would be forced off of their private policy upon an immediate-effect full ACA repeal, plus the additional 320,000 enrolled in Medicaid expansion, for a total of 382,000 Nevadans kicked to the curb.
Last year, the average full-price rate hikes approved by state regulators tended to be several percentage points lower overall than the increases requested by carriers. This year, there's been very little of that; in most case so far, the regulators have pretty much authorized the premium rate increases as requested by carriers...and in many cases have approved higher increases than requested. As a result, the overall national averages approved have been pretty close to the requests (around 24-25% nationally).