Pennsylvania

Yesterday the Pennsylvania Insurance Dept. posted the preliminary 2021 rate filings for the individual and small group markets. On the surface, it appears that Pennsylvania has an absurdly competitive market, with 17 carriers listed on the indy market and 21 small group carriers...but when you look closer, many of these are simply branches of the same main company.

For instance, fully five of the individual market carriers are variants of "Highmark"...which is actually Pennsylvania's rebranding of Blue Cross Blue Shield. Two are branches of Geisinger and another two are both UPMC. The same is true in the small group market.

And don't even get me started about "Capital Advantage Assurance Company" and "Capital Advantage Insurance Company". Sheesh.

In any event, the overall rate filings average out to rougly a 2.6% premium decrease on the individual market and a 2.3% increase for small group plans, when weighted by carrier market share.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and just getting generally swamped, I haven't gotten around to writing about Pennsylvania's state-based ACA exchange, due to launch this fall, since way back in December:

PA’s A Step Closer To Starting A State-Based Health Insurance Exchange

Pennsylvania’s new, state-run health ​insurance exchange is getting rolling ahead of its launch in 2021.

The commonwealth has chosen a California-based company, GetInsured to run it.

...Zachary Sherman, who heads the newly-created Pennsylvania Health Insurance Exchange Authority, said the contract with GetInsured will cost around $25 million annually, plus startup expenses that’ll be spread over several years.

“That’s compared to what we currently pay for Healthcare.gov, which is in the $90 to $95 million range,” he said.

Sherman said the administration chose GetInsured because it has already contracted with other states, like Nevada and Minnesota.

He said the new exchange is expected to save people between five and ten percent every year on premiums.

Over the past few days, I've collected and analyzed the daily COVID-19 cases at the county level in Michigan and Wisconsin to see what patterns are emerging as time goes by. I've tried to do this via two criteria: Population density (urban vs. rural) and politically (red vs. blue). The latter, of course, shouldn't even be a thing, but of course it is; pretty much every policy decision being made by the Trump Administration is based on tribal politics, so it'd be naive not to look at the data in that light.

So far, I've found clear and obvious trends in both midwest states, which happen to be two of the three most closely-watched swing states this year: While the urban centers (Detroit/Metro Detroit in Michigan; Milwaukee/Madison in Wisconsin) started out with much higher rates of infection than the rest of the state, over the past few weeks this has shifted dramatically, and appears set to continue to do so.

Last March I wrote an analysis of H.R.1868, the House Democrats bill that comprises the core of the larger H.R.1884 "ACA 2.0" bill. H.R.1884 includes a suite of about a dozen provisions to protect, repair and strengthen the ACA, but the House Dems also broke the larger piece of legislation down into a dozen smaller bills as well.

Some of these "mini-ACA 2.0" bills only make minor improvements to the law, or make improvements in ways which are important but would take a few years to see obvious results. Others, however, make huge improvements and would be immediately obvious, and of those, the single most dramatic and important one is H.R.1868.

The official title is the "Health Care Affordability Act of 2019", but I just call both it and H.R.1884 (the "Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act of 2019") by the much simpler and more accurate moniker "ACA 2.0".

I haven't written anything about Pennsylvania's surprisingly bipartisan decision to break off of the federal ACA exchange at HealthCare.Gov onto their own state-based exchange since June:

After some last-minute drama in one state and a surprising lack of drama in another, both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have officially passed bills allowing them to each establish their own ACA exchanges and enrollment platforms, splitting off from the federal exchange and HealthCare.Gov:

Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania is poised to roll out its own online health insurance exchange to take the place of the one run by the federal government for the state's residents since 2014, saying it can save money for hundreds of thousands of policy-buyers.

Back in July, the Pennsylvania Insurance Dept. posted the preliminary/requested 2020 average premium rate changes for the individual and small group markets. The ACA-compliant individual market average increase was around 4.6%; for small businesses, the average was 9.6%.

Today they finally posted the approved rate changes for each...and the indy market average has dropped to a 3.8% increase, while the small group market has gone up just a hair to 9.7%.

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.

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:

This Just In from the Pennsylvania Insurance Dept:

Insurance companies offering individual and small group health insurance plans are required to file proposed rates with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department for review and approval before plans can be sold to consumers. The Department reviews rates to ensure that the plans are priced appropriately -- that is, they are neither excessive (too high) nor inadequate (too low) -- and are not unfairly discriminatory.

Rates reflect estimates of future costs, including medical and prescription drug costs and administrative expenses, and are based on historical data and forecasts of trends in the upcoming year. In its review, the Department considers these factors, as well as factors such as the insurer's revenues, actual and projected profits, past rate changes, and the effect the change will have on Pennsylvania consumers. For more information on this process, watch our How Are Health Insurance Rates Decided?Opens In A New Window video.

After some last-minute drama in one state and a surprising lack of drama in another, both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have officially passed bills allowing them to each establish their own ACA exchanges and enrollment platforms, splitting off from the federal exchange and HealthCare.Gov:

New Jersey:

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill establishing a state-based health care marketplace.

Murphy signed the legislation on Friday in a private ceremony.

Under current law, New Jersey uses a federal exchange, or marketplace, letting people shop for and enroll in coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

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