Small Group Market

Small Business

As longtime readers know, every summer/fall I run analyses of the annual premium rate change filings for both the individual and small group health insurance markets for all 50 states +DC. However, I tend to put most of my focus on the individual market, since that tends to have a lot more interest and activity surrounding it.

The individual market has been rocked by both economic and policy changes from year to year (in both good and bad ways) far more than the small group market, which hasn't been in the news nearly as much. You tend to read a lot of stories about the Individual Market (both ACA-compliant as well as so-called "junk plans" like Short Term, Sharing Ministries, Farm Bureau and the like), and of course the Large Group market is massive (something like 40% of the U.S. population), so even minor changes to that are big news...but the Small Group market (which generally includes companies with 50 or fewer full-time employees, though a few states include companies with 100 or fewer) tends to get short shrift in both the news as well as healthcare wonkery.

Holy smokes. A huge shout-out to Esther F. for the heads up on this. I have no idea how this story slipped under my radar the past few months:

Northam signs healthcare bill to provide relief to Virginia entrepreneurs
Published Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2018, 12:42 pm

Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new healthcare bill into law that will provide relief to many small business owners currently struggling with the Central Virginia insurance premium crisis.

Members of local advocacy group Charlottesville For Reasonable Health Insurance had provided testimony at the Virginia General Assembly and organized an email campaign, helping to ensure passage of the bill through the legislative session. Introduced by Sen. Creigh Deeds and effective July 1 2018, SB672 will allow self-employed people to take advantage of the much more affordable health plans in the small group business marketplace, without having to hire employees.

Thanks to David Snow for the heads up!

A couple of weeks ago, both Louise Norris and I crunched the South Carolina data and came up with different estimates of the weighted average requested 2016 rate hikes for the ACA-compliant individual market. She used a worst-case scenario and estimated it to be around 16.8%; I took a slightly more optimistic approach and came up with 15.2%.

Well, the South Carolina Dept. of Insurance just released their approved 2016 rates, and they ended up pretty much splitting the difference.

As you can see, even though there are only 5 carriers operating on the ACA exchange and another 5 offering policies off-exchange only, the overall average is still 15.9% either way: