Pennsylvania

Until this year, most of the ACA exchanges, including HealthCare.Gov, would simply report how many people selected QHPs through the exchange, whether paid up or not. There's nothing wrong with this as long as it's made clear at some point how many people actually paid their premiums and had their policies effectuated; the argument over this issue was the entire basis of the infamous "But how many have PAID???" fuss back in 2014. It was such a Big Deal that the Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee even published the results on a laughably garbage-filled "survey" they had sent out to a portion of the insurance carriers.

(Note In the end, it turned out to be roughly 85-90% depending on the state/carrier in 2014; for 2015 the payment rate nudged up to around 90% overall, which is where it will likely stand going forward).

Unlike the exchange QHP enrollments, which will always continue to be the heart and soul of this website (it's right there in the name, after all), I've kind of gotten away from trying to track Medicaid expansion on a granular level over the past few months. The main reason for this is that in many of the expansion states, they've simply maxed out on enrollees, and the numbers from week to week or even month to month are simply holding steady at this point.

At last!! It's been extremely frustrating trying to lock down the 2016 average premium hikes for Pennsylvania, especially because their Insurance Dept. website has actually been very good about posting every requested rate change in an easy-to-read, comprehensive fashion.

The problem with PA's rate filings hasn't been on the percentage change side, it's on the covered lives side. I was able to compile enrollment numbers for some carriers but not others...including First Priority, which was requesting a 29.5% rate hike. Without knowing whether they had a huge chunk of the market or not, posting the "average" rate hikes without including theirs was kind of meaningless, since it could potentially jack that average up or down dramatically.

So, I finally kind of gave up on it, figuring that even when the approved rates were posted, they probably still wouldn't include the number of covered lives for each insurance company.

Thankfully, it turns out I was wrong!

Last year, GOP Governor Tom Corbett pushed through a poorly-conceived, overly-cumbersome "Republican alternative" Medicaid expansion program called Healthy PA, which didn't go into effect until late in the year. He was defeated by Democrat Tom Wolf, who vowed to scrap the "alternative" version and simply expand Medicaid to residents below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, as the ACA had intended.

This transition was messy, but has now been completed...and is saving the people of Pennsylvania a boatload of money:

Department of Human Services Sec. Ted Dallas Tuesday announced the end of the transition from Healthy PA to traditional Medicaid expansion—known as HealthChoices in Pennsylvania—as the last of the expansion insurance plans took effect.

According to Sec. Dallas, 440,000 Pennsylvanians are enrolled in Medicaid expansion insurance plans with the last group of enrollees coming out of Healthy PA’s primary coverage options into Medicaid expansion.

“With that last group of folks moving over, the Medicaid expansion is now complete,” Sec. Dallas told reporters.

When I last checked in on Pennsylvania's year-late-but-certainly-welcome addition to the ACA Medicaid expansion club, newly inaugurated Governor Tom Wolf was in the process of replacing his predecessor's poorly-conceived, overly-complicated "Conservative version" of the expansion program with "official" Medicaid expansion to up to 600,000 state residents. At the time (early May), they had hit roughly 250,000 people.

I'm happy to report that according to today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the dust has settled on the transition, and enrollment has been on a tear, with the tally now standing at roughly 439,000 Pennsylvanians.

About 439,000 Pennsylvanians have enrolled in expanded Medicaid, which provides health insurance coverage to the poor and disabled, since the beginning of the year, according to figures released last week by the state’s Department of Human Services.

Over at Balloon Juice, Richard Mayhew has posted a great piece illustrating, once again, the importance of looking past the scary headlines to find out 1) what the true picture is (ie, taking all of the rate changes into account--not just the biggest ones--and weighting them by proportionate market share), and 2) what's going on with your situation, not someone else's:

As expected, the initial ask by insurers is being revised down. It is easier for insurers to get state regulators to agree to a lower number from the initial than to get the regulators to agree to a higher number than the initial ask. That allows regulators and their champions to point to a clear example of their effectiveness at protecting the public. This is a bit of a kabuki. In my state, when Mayhew Insurance and our competitors submit rates, there is a de facto implicit fudge factor built into the rates (usually as excess reserve accumulation) that everyone expects to be cut by the third round of review.

THIS JUST IN...

CMS today conditionally approved Delaware and Pennsylvania to operate State-based Marketplaces (SBMs)" #kingvburwell @charles_gaba

— Dan Mangan (@_DanMangan) June 15, 2015

Obama administration has approved Pennsylvania and Delaware’s blueprints to become state-based ACA exchanges next year.

— Dylan Scott (@dylanlscott) June 15, 2015

It appears that at while most of the 34 states on the federal exchange have spent the past 5 months wandering around aimlessly, at least two of them did pay attention last November when the Supreme Court, to the astonishment of anyone with an ounce of sanity, agreed to take up the King v. Burwell case.

Tom Wolf, the newly-elected (Democratic) Governor of Pennsylvania, announced back in March that yes, he would absolutely push to "establish" a state ACA exchange in the event of a King plaintiff win, and earlier this week he made good on this by formally submitting an application to the HHS Dept.:

Pennsylvania became the first state Tuesday to publicly put in motion a back-up plan to protect its federal health insurance subsidies in the event the Supreme Court dismantles a key part of President Obama’s health care law.

So, the good news is that new Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who has already scrapped his predecessor's unnecessarily confusing "alternative" Medicaid expansion plan in favor of regular expansion, has officially submitted a latter to the HHS Dept. stating that yes, if the Supreme Court does rule against the government in the King v. Burwell case, PA will indeed establish their own ACA healthcare exchange.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf's administration advanced plans Friday to maintain federal health insurance subsidies for nearly 400,000 Pennsylvanians ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could wipe out the aid to insurance buyers in some states.

The Democrat wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to declare his administration's intent to take over operation of the insurance marketplace in 2016. The federal government currently operates the marketplace, which is a prominent feature of the 2010 federal health care law designed to extend insurance coverage to 35 million Americans.

This article is a bit outdated (it's from March 3rd); thanks to Andrew Sprung for finding it for me. Apparently over 200,000 people are now enrolled in Pennsylvania's "Healthy PA" program, which is the "alternative" Medicaid expansion plan set up by GOP Governor Tom Corbett prior to new Democratic Governor Tom Wolf taking charge. Wolf is in the process of flipping the program back to "standard" Medicaid expansion, but is running into a few snags:

Under former Gov. Tom Corbett's Healthy Pennsylvania program, the state built a second Medicaid managed-care system, separate from its HealthChoices Medicaid system that serves about 1.6 million residents. About 600,000 residents are eligible for the expanded coverage and about 200,000 have enrolled. 

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