OE6

Last year, I noted several times that regardless of what your opinion may be of the ACA's Individual Mandate Penalty (which was, until this year, either $695 per adult/$348 per child or 2.5% of your household income, unless you received an exemption), one of the key things to keep in mind about the penalty is that any impact it has on encouraging people to go ahead and enroll in ACA-compliant healthcare coverage is entirely dependent on two things:

I'm not sure how this slipped by me, but NY State of Health (New York's ACA exchange) released their official 2019 Open Enrollment Period report about a week ago:

NY State of Health Releases 2019 Open Enrollment Report

  • Essential Plan and Qualified Health Plan Enrollment Reach Record Levels 

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 9, 2019)—NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan Marketplace, today released detailed demographic data on the more than 4.7 million New Yorkers enrolled in comprehensive health coverage through the close of the sixth open enrollment period on January 31, 2019. Marketplace enrollment is now at its highest point ever, and Essential Plan and Qualified Health Plan enrollment reached record levels of more than 1 million people.

“It’s evident in the numbers released today that there is high demand for quality, affordable health coverage,” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “The 2019 record enrollment levels are proof that New York’s Marketplace remains strong.”

NY State of Health 2019 Open Enrollment Report Highlights

NOTE: CLICK THE IMAGES FOR HIG-RES VERSIONS.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released the official 2019 Open Enrollment Period report over a week ago. Normally I pounce all over these reports and spend a couple of days analyzing every last data point, seeing how that's the core of what I do here at ACASignups.net.

However, this report was released amidst a gusher of other major ACA/healthcare news stories over the course of the week, and I never really got around to a deep dive. I'm still swamped, but I figured I should at least go back and do a little more analysis today.

OK, first of all, I need to clean up the discrepancies between the OE6 enrollment data I had and what's in the official CMS report. Every year there are always slight variations in a few states, usually when it comes to the state-based exchanges, and this year is no exception. There were differences reported in six states; in five of them, CMS reported lower enrollment numbers; in one the CMS tally is higher:

UPDATE 3/26/19: In light of last night's bombshell announcement that the Trump DOJ is now officially calling for the entire ACA to be repealed in the #TexasFoldEm lawsuit, the wording of yesterday's press release from Trump's CMS division is straight out of 1984 territory:

CMS Issues the 2019 Exchange Open Enrollment Period Final Report
Agency also extends the policy allowing issuers to continue “grandmothered” plans

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today released the Health Insurance Exchanges 2019 Open Enrollment Report. With the Trump Administration’s focus on making healthcare more affordable, the report confirms another successful open enrollment period coinciding with a stabilization of premiums after years of substantial increases. Specifically, the report shows plan selections in Exchange plans in the 50 states and D.C. remained steady at 11.4 million. This represents a minimal decline of around 300,000 plan selections from the same time last year. Also, as outlined in the report, average total premiums for plans selected through HealthCare.gov dropped by 1.5 percent from the prior year, the first decline since the Exchanges began operations in 2014.

This was actually released a month ago, but I was a bit preoccupied with my kid's Bar Mitzvah at the time (he did great, by the way, thanks for asking!).

Access Health CT, Connecticut's state-based ACA exchange, released their 2019 Open Enrollment Period report, and it's one of the most extensively detailed & granual looks at the year's enrollment data. They've included the normal stuff, of course (subsidized vs. unsubsidized, metal levels, age and income brackets, etc)...but they've also done a very deep dive into data points I haven't seen before by cross-indexing categories.

For instance, not only did they break out "enrollment attrition reasons" (that is, why 2018 enrollees who didn't renew their policies chose not to), but they actually broke that out into what those enrollees' financial assistance status was.

The level of detail here is pretty impressive and somewhat overwhelming (there's 25 pages of charts & graphs), but if you're a healthcare nerd interested in what's going on in the Nutmeg State, knock yourself out!

Via Email from the Connect for Health Colorado exchange...

Customers Receiving Financial Help Through Connect for Health Colorado® Seeing a 14% Drop in Net Monthly Premium Cost

DENVER – Coloradans who get financial help buying health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado® are paying an average 14 percent less in “net premium” – what they pay after assistance – compared to the average net premium in 2018, according to data released today.

Three of every four current Connect for Health Colorado customers qualify for financial help to reduce the monthly cost of health insurance. The average net premium for those Coloradans is $117 per month, down from $136 per month last year.

“We are happy that we are able to make health insurance affordable for so many people,” said Kevin Patterson, Chief Executive Office of Connect for Health Colorado. “The number of our customers receiving help rose this year by seven percentage points, to 76 percent, an important increase. We know we have more work to do, and are committed to expanding our impact as we work with policy makers, our stakeholders and our customers throughout the state.

This press release is mostly of interest because it came from the Governor's office, not the MA Health Connector itself:

Baker-Polito Administration Announces Health Connector Completes Successful Open Enrollment with Highest-Ever Membership, Covering 282,000 People with Health Insurance

Governor Baker announced today that the Massachusetts Health Connector completed Open Enrollment with the highest membership in the 13-year history of the state’s health insurance exchange, covering 282,000 people with health insurance.

Heh. "13-year history" took a moment to register...but of course Massachusetts has had a health insurance exchange website since 2006, when "RomneyCare" went into effect.

This just in from New York State of Health...

Press Release: NY State of Health Releases 2019 Enrollment Data by Insurer
Mar 12, 2019

  • New Yorkers Value Choice of Plans
  • 2019 Enrollment is Spread Across NY State of Health’s 12 Qualified Health Plan Insurers and 16 Essential Plan Insurers

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 12, 2019) - NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan Marketplace today released 2019 health plan enrollment by insurer. Twelve insurers offer Qualified Health Plans (QHP) and sixteen insurers offer the Essential Plan (EP) statewide in 2019. Most consumers have a choice of at least four QHP and EP insurers in every county of the state. 

“We are pleased to once again offer consumers a broad choice of high-quality, affordable health plan options in every county of the state,” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “And the wide distribution of enrollment across insurers shows us that consumers value this choice.”

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that more than 200,000 people purchased their 2019 health insurance coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online health insurance marketplace, during the most recent open enrollment period held Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 of last year.

Even with the four percent decrease in total number of enrollments reported from February of 2018, the Exchange saw more than 90 percent of those who selected a 2019 health plan during the open enrollment period make their initial premium payment.

A 4% drop may sound bad, but total QHP selections during OE6 were actually down 8.3% year over year (from 243K to 223K), so this is actually an improvement in that sense. 90.5% of those who selected policies are still effectuated as of February this year vs. 86.4% as of February in 2018.

A week or so ago, I reported that the Vermont Health Connect had finally released their official 2019 Open Enrollment Period data.

Vermont is among the few states which also releases their off-exchange numbers, and it's a good thing they do that because it helps explain the 12.3% drop in on-exchange enrollment this year. In short, thanks to VT making the move to active #SilverSwitching for 2019, several thousand people moved from on-exchange Silver ACA plans to nearly-identical off-exchange Silver plans.

Anyway, today they issued a formal press release with additional details...and at the same time bumped up the official enrollment tally by a bit:

2019 Individual Enrollment Report Shows More Vermonters are Covered

New York State of Health, NY's ACA exchange, posted their final statewide 2019 Open Enrollment Period numbers a few weeks back.

A few days ago, they broke that data out further, providing county-level granular data as well:

Press Release: NY State of Health Announces 2019 Enrollment Increases in All Counties of New York State
Feb 22, 2019

HealthSource RI enrollments up by nearly 2,000 customers as RI’s uninsured rate reaches all-time low

Feb 25, 2019

  • According to the latest Rhode Island’s Health Information Survey, only 3.7% of Rhode Islanders were uninsured in 2018, down from 4.2% in 2016.
  • HealthSource RI’s individual and family enrollments increased by 1,849. This Open Enrollment, 32,486 customers enrolled and paid compared to 30,637 last year.

The "...and paid" caveat is important. Last month HealthSource RI reported 34,533 QHP selections after the 2019 OEP wrapped up, so that's an impressive 94% paid/effectuated rate. For comparison, last year 30,637 paid out of 33,021, or 92.8%, so they've improved on that front as well.

Back in mid-January, Connect for Health Colorado released their semi-final 2019 Open Enrollment Period report:

By the close of this year’s Open Enrollment, Coloradans had selected 169,672 medical insurance plans, which compares to 165,777 medical plan selections for the 2018 Open Enrollment period.

Hmmm...I'll have to look into these numbers a bit further. Colorado's 2018 Open Enrollment total was indeed 165,777 according to C4HCO...but according to CMS's official report it was only 161,764 QHP selections. This is the same thing which happened last year, when C4HCO reported 172,361 QHPs vs. CMS's 161,568. It's therefore possible that the final/official 2019 CMS report will put Colorado's total around 4,000 enrollees lower than my own numbers.

However, either way, Colorado joins Massachusetts in increasing their ACA open enrollment numbers every year for five years straight, bucking the national trend!

Back in early December, I noted that while I applauded both New Jersey and the District of Columbia for creating their own individual healthcare coverage responsibility requirements (aka, The Individual Mandate) in response to Congressional Republicans repealing the ACA's federal penalty, doing so also required making sure that residents of NJ/DC *knew* they had done so:

There's only one problem with this: The impact of the mandate penalty is completely psychological in nature. It only works (to the extent that it does at all) if people know that they'll be penalized financially for not complying with the mandate.

Two weeks ago, I posted a semi-final state-by-state 2019 Open Enrollment Period breakout which had the total at 11,430,438 QHP selections nationally.

At the time, I projected:

I still expect the final national QHP selection tally to increase by around 35,000 more when the dust settles, including perhaps 1,000 more from DC, 5K - 10K more from New York and around 28,000 from Vermont (which hasn't reported anything so far this Open Enrollment Period). If so, the official total should end up around 11.47 million nationally, with the 12 State-Based exchanges coming in around 1.6% higher than last year (an all-time high for them collectively) vs. the 39 states on the federal exchange, which dropped another 3.8% this year. Nationally, the official total should end up around 280,000 enrollees short of last year.

Since then I've plugged in the final numbers from New York (which indeed added around 6,700 more enrollees), the District of Columbia (which added over 3,000 more) and, just this morning, Vermont (which only added 25,000 more, with a caveat). Net increase? 34,889 QHP selections.

That indeed brings the grand total to 11,465,327 QHP selections nationally...or 11.47 million...with the state-based exchanges increasing 1.6% year over year, and the national total dropping 285,000 enrollees.

UPDATE: The final, official CMS enrollment report came out in late April, and there's some minor discrepancies in a few states (especially Minnesota). Nationally, the official total is around 22,000 fewer than I thought. The table below has been updated to reflect this. The state-based exchanges still increased enrollment over last year, but only by 0.9%; nationally, enrollment dropped by 306,000 people.

At long last, the final piece of the puzzle can be added: I just received the final 2019 Open Enrollment Period numbers from Vermont Health Connect.

Before looking at it, it's important to understand that Vermont has a unique way of reporting ACA-compliant healthcare policy enrollments.

For the first two years of Open Enrollment, the state didn't allow any off-exchange (or "direct") enrollments for the individual market (or the small business market, I believe). That means all indy market enrollments were done through the exchange. Due to technical problems (and possibly for other reasons as well), however, starting in 2016 they started allowing direct/off-exchange enrollment as well, as every other state does (the District of Columbia is the only other ACA exchange which has no off-exchange market). However, Vermont still requires the insurance carriers to report those off-exchange enrollees to them and they report them as well.

I wish every state reported their enrollment data this way; it would make it much easier for me to do my job, since as it stands the off-exchange market is a bit of a mystery in most states.

Until now, I've been missing the final 2019 Open Enrollment Period numbers for two state-based exchanges: Vermont and the District of Columbia. VT is still radio silent, but last night the DC exchange authority held their monthly meeting and released their latest data report.

There's a bunch of handy demographic data included in the report...but some of it is also confusing and difficult to get an accurate year-over-year measurement due to a difference of time periods and enrollment status.

I've put in a request to sort some of this out and will update this entry if/when I receive clarification.

For instance, the DC exchange says that they have the following number of residents currently effectuated as of February 10th:

This just in via NY-based Politico healthcare reporter Dan Goldberg...

@charles_gaba final tally from NY: QHP 271,873; EP 790,152; 22% enrollees were new and 78% re-enrolled for a QHP. Number were 12%, 88% for EP

— Dan Goldberg (@DanCGoldberg) February 4, 2019

This is 6,664 QHP selections higher than the 1/29 tally, or slightly more than the 5,000 I expected NY to tack on for the final two days of Open Enrollment. New York wrapped things up with an impressive 7.4% increase in QHP enrollees over last year and a 6.9% increase in Essential Plan (BHP) enrollment.

UPDATE: Here's the official press release with a few more details:

The Minnesota ACA exchange, MNsure, wrapped up their 2019 Open Enrollment Period on January 13th, and recently released three big reports chock full of wonky healthcare data nerd goodness. I'm mostly going to just repost some of the key graphs/charts, but make sure to read the full reports for all the details:

The annual report is mostly full of inside baseball administrative info, but the first two reports have lots of stuff of interest to the average reader of this site:

First up, their January board meeting slideshow:

This Just In from DC Health Link...

DC Health Link Extends 2019 Open Enrollment Deadline to Wednesday, Feb. 6

Washington, DC­­ – DC residents will have an additional six days to sign up for 2019 health insurance coverage through DC Health Link.  The new deadline to sign up is 11:59pm on Wednesday, February 6.  Individuals who sign up by that deadline will have coverage beginning March 1, 2019.

DC Health Link customer service representatives will be available today at (855) 532-5465 from 8:00am to 8:00pm and on Monday, February 4th through Wednesday, February 6th to work with individuals seeking to enroll in health insurance coverage effective March 1. In-person assistance will also be available at enrollment centers throughout the District to assist residents with the enrollment process through February 6th.

The 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has finally officially ended nationally. HOWEVER...

  • GEORGIA residents in 69 counties (around 1.37 million people) who were impacted by last fall's hurricanes have until February 20th to enroll by calling HC.gov directly at 800-318-2596.
    • Counties Eligible: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Ben Hill, Berrien, Bleckley, Brooks, Bulloch, Burke, Calhoun, Candler, Chattahoochee, Clay, Coffee, Colquitt, Cook, Crawford, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Echols, Emanuel, Evans, Glascock, Grady, Hancock, Houston, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Jones, Laurens, Lee, Macon, Marion, Miller, Mitchell, Montgomery, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Tattnall, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Tooms, Treutlen, Turner, Twiggs, Washington, Webster, Wheeler, Wilcox, Wilkinson, Worth

I debated whether or not to upload another update now instead of waiting for DC & NY to wrap things up, but figured what the hell.

I still expect the final national QHP selection tally to increase by around 35,000 more when the dust settles, including perhaps 1,000 more from DC, 5K - 10K more from New York and around 28,000 from Vermont (which hasn't reported anything so far this Open Enrollment Period). If so, the official total should end up around 11.47 million nationally, with the 12 State-Based exchanges coming in around 1.6% higher than last year (an all-time high for them collectively) vs. the 39 states on the federal exchange, which dropped another 3.8% this year. Nationally, the official total should end up around 280,000 enrollees short of last year.

Last night, in response to CMS Administrator Seema Verma taking shots at both Covered California (for blaming their drop in new enrollment on the federal mandate being repealed) and New Jersey (for seeing a 7.1% exchange enrollment drop in spite of reinstating the mandate), I wrote a long analysis which noted that:

  • Verma may have a valid point, but...
  • There's not nearly enough data available to know one way or the other (especially the missing off-exchange data for this year), and...
  • Even if she turns out to be correct about NJ's total enrollment drop, NJ reinstating the mandate still resulted in a substantial premium drop for well over 100,000 residents.

Today, I was able to fill in some of that missing data...although some of it is still frustratingly absent.

With Covered California releasing their final, official 2019 Open Enrollment Period data, and the latest updates from New York (which still has 2 days to go) and Massachusetts (which wrapped up last week), I now nearly all 2019 OEP data on hand.

I say nearly all because there are still three numbers missing:

  • Vermont has yet to release any 2019 enrollment data. This is the 3rd year in a row that they've been radio silent. Assuming they're close to last year (28,763 QHP selections), they should add around 28,000 to the national total.
  • New York still has 2 days left for people to #GetCovered. I'm going to assume they'll tack on perhaps 5,000 more people today and tomorrow.
  • The District of Columbia hasn't posted any updates since December 11th, which means not only do they still have 2 days for people to sign up, they're actually missing a whopping 51 days worth of enrollment data. Again, assuming they wrap up close to last year, that should mean another 1,400 or so from DC.

Between the three, I'd expect another ~34,000 QHP selections to be tacked onto the totals below.

This Just In from Covered California...

Covered California Plan Selections Remain Steady at 1.5 Million, but a Significant Drop in New Consumers Signals Need to Restore Penalty

  • Covered California finishes open enrollment with 1.5 million plan selections, which is virtually identical to 2018’s total, despite federal changes.
  • A key reason for the steady enrollment is that more people entered the renewal process for 2019 coverage after a strong enrollment period for 2018.
  • The federal removal of the individual mandate penalty appears to have had a substantial impact, leading to a decrease of 23.7 percent in new enrollment.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced that more than 1.5 million consumers selected a health plan for 2019 coverage during the most recent open-enrollment period, a figure in line with last year’s total. There was a 7.5 percent increase in the number of existing consumers renewing their coverage and a 23.7 percent drop in the number of new consumers signing up for 2019.

With just two days left to go for New Yorkers to #GetCovered, Politico healthcare reporter Dan Goldberg has the latest numbers:

@charles_gaba NY latest numbers 265,209 in QHP 784,202 in EP. Enrollment deadline is tomorrow

— Dan Goldberg (@DanCGoldberg) January 30, 2019

These are solidly impressive numbers. Last year's final tally (including the last two days of Open Enrollment) was:

Last April, Maryland was one of several states which took action to counteract portions of the Trump Administration's attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. In particular, Maryland (which has a Democratically-controlled state legislature but a moderate (by today's standards) Republican Governor) passed and signed into two important bills:

The combined effect of these changes was dramatic: Maryland's individual market insurance carriers, which had been planning on jacking up their average premiums by a whopping 30%, instead ended up lowering their 2019 premiums by over 13%. This is a net swing of around $3,200 per enrollee for the year (around $266 per month). In other words, instead of seeing unsubsidized 2019 premiums go up by $2,200 apiece, they dropped around $1,000.

This is a very quick post as I’m in the middle of the Families USA healthcare conference, but it’s a significant one: The Massachusetts Health Connector, which wrapped up their 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period last night, just reported the following:

Here is an update as of today, with Open Enrollment having ended last night.

Note: These numbers below should be considered something of a high-water mark. There will be fluctuations as plan-selecteds lose their window, members terminate, but also some applicants end up enrolling in March coverage.

Total enrollments (Including all January, February and March enrollments to date): 292,006

Plan selected/unenrolled: 8,079

2019 enrollment as defined by CMS: 300,085

Our new enrollment (people who did not have Health Connector coverage as of Nov. 1) is 60,361. This is a 23 percent increase from last year’s 49,034 at the same point in time.

Our retention rate is currently 89.7 percent, up about 2.6 percent from last year.

Holy smokes.

via DC Health Link (the District of Columbia ACA exchange):

DC Health Link Pulling Out All the Stops for African-American “Week of Action”
Friday, January 18, 2019

Marching in MLK, Jr. Day Parade, barber shop outreach, and visiting churches highlight opportunities to boost African-American health insurance enrollment

WHAT/WHO:

With less than two weeks left to the January 31 deadline to sign up for 2019 coverage, DC Health Link is ramping up outreach efforts to the African-American community, where the uninsured rate remains high. DC Health Link, in partnership with various community organizations, is encouraging uninsured African-Americans to enroll in quality, affordable health insurance during DC Health Link’s “African-American Week of Action.”

New York State of Health continues to roll on with the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period. With nine days left for people to enroll, they're now nearly 3% ahead of last year's final QHP selection total:

Press Release: NY State of Health Hosts Online Informational Webinars in Spanish and Mandarin Tomorrow

  • Enrollment Remains Strong During Final Weeks of Open Enrollment
  • Enroll Today! 2019 Open Enrollment Ends January 31, 2019
  • Customer Service Center Hours Extended before Deadline

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 22, 2019) - NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan Marketplace, today reminded New Yorkers that now is the time to enroll in a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) for 2019 coverage. NY State of Health will hold webinars in Spanish and Mandarin tomorrow night, January 23, 2019. Open Enrollment for 2019 ends January 31. Consumers across the state have a choice of many quality health plans, and financial assistance is available to most individuals who buy coverage through NY State of Health.

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