South Dakota

The ACA was originally designed with the intention that all documented Americans living in all 50 states (+DC) earning up to at least 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) would be eligible for Medicaid. Unfortunately, the 2012 NFIB v. Sebelius ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court stated that Medicaid expansion under the ACA had to be left up to each individual state.

This meant that each state had to decide, whether by legislation, executive order (depending on the state) or ballot initiative, whether or not to expand the low-income public health program or not. Under the ACA, any state which does so will have 90% of the cost paid for by the federal government, while the state has to pony up the other 10% of the cost.

Of all the elected officials who have been aping Donald Trump's horrific COVID-19 pandemic denialism, perhaps none have been worse (at least in terms of actual policy impact) than Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.

Not only has Gov. Noem refused to take any significant action to slow the spread of COVID-19, she's openly mocked those who do and is even starring in TV ads encouraging tourism of South Dakota based on her refusal to impose any reasonable measures using federal COVID-19 relief funding...even as South Dakota has become the second worst COVID hot spot in the nation (first place? SD's neighbor to the north...North Dakota).

In response to widespread criticism, Gov. Noem today penned an Op-Ed for the Wall St. Journal in which she argues that everything is actually peachy-kean in the Mount Rushmore State:

South Dakota's 2021 individual & small group market rate filings are up, and there's not much to say about any of them: Individual premiums are going up around 2.6%, small group market policies around 2.8% overall statewide.

I'm not sure how this happened, but it looks like I missed posting about South Dakota's requested 2020 premium rate filings. No matter, though, because the approved avg. rate increases (for unsubsidized enrollees) are exactly the same as what Avera Health Plan and Sanford Health Plan asked for anyway.

Statewide, South Dakota is looking at 6.5% average hikes for 2020.

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 is a pretty minor update, but I'm trying to lock in all of the approved 2019 rate changes as they come in. Last month, South Dakota's two carriers, Avera and Sanford, posted requested rate increases which I thought were 2.6% and 10.0% at the time. I also estimated their relative enrollment at around 27,000 and 4,000 enrollees apiece for market share calculations, which gave a statewide average increase of around 3.5%.

I checked the South Dakota Insurance Division website again today, and it certainly looks like the filings have been approved by the state insurance regulators...however, when I double-checked the filings themselves, it looks like they were actually slightly lower than I thought: 2.5% and 9.7% respectively.

In addition, I was able to find the hard enrollment numbers for each...the total is pretty close to what I had it at (29,180 vs. 31,000), but the splut is quite different. Insetad of Avera still having an 87% market share, it looks ike the split is more like 63/37 this year. Since Sanford is requesting a significantly higher increase than Avera, that means the weighted statewide average is higher as well...around 5.2% instead of 3.5%.

South Dakota has two ACA indy market carriers, Avera and Sanford. The relative enrollment market shares are based on last year's numbers. The 14.4% #ACASabotage impact assumes 2/3 of the Urban Institute's projections to err on the side of caution.

THe average unsubsidized SD indy market enrollee pays $624/month this year; instead of that dropping by around $68/month, it's expected to increase by $22...for a total monthly difference of $90.

Assuming that's accurate, this means unsubsidized SD residents will be paying over $1,000 more apiece next year than they'd otherwise have to.

Protect Our Care is a healthcare advocacy coalition created last December to help fight back against the GOP's attempts to repeal, sabotage and otherwise undermine the Affordable Care Act. This morning they released a report which compiled the approved 2018 individual market rate increases across over two dozen states.

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.

South Dakota is another fairly straightforward state: Two carriers, around 31,000 total ACA-compliant enrollees on & off exchange. Neither filing indicates whether they're assuming CSR payments will be made or not, so I'm assuming they're based on them being paid.

As I noted when I crunched the numbers for Texas, it's actually easier to figure out how many people would lose coverage if the ACA is repealed in non-expansion states because you can't rip away healthcare coverage from someone who you never provided it to in the first place.

My standard methodology applies:

He hasn't even been sworn in yet:

A proposal to expand a federal health insurance program for needy people could be off the table following the results of Tuesday's election.

The victory of Republican Donald Trump, who has called for a repeal of Obamacare, along with the increasingly conservative Republican make-up of the South Dakota state Legislature could thwart Gov. Dennis Daugaard's efforts to expand Medicaid in the state.

Daugaard for more than a year has worked with the Obama administration and the Indian Health Service to strike a deal, which stemmed the approval of a federal policy that allows the state to spend less on Medicaid-eligible Native Americans. And part of that bargain has been staked on South Dakota using the savings to cover an additional 50,000 South Dakotans under Medicaid.

Trump hasn't set a clear policy position on Medicaid expansion but has said he'd repeal the Affordable Care Act, though two of his closest allies, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, have accepted Medicaid expansion.

Normally I post screenshots from the revised/updated SERFF filings and/or updates at RateReview.HealthCare.Gov, but it takes forever and I think I've more than established my credibility on this sort of thing, so forgive me for not doing so here. Besides, #OE4 is approaching so rapidly now that this entire project will become moot soon enough, as people start actually shopping around and finding out just what their premium changes will be for 2017.

The other reason I'm not too concerned about documenting the latest batch of updates/additional data is because in the end none of it is making much of a difference to the larger national average anyway; no matter how the individual carrier rates jump around in various states, the overall, national weighted average still seems to hover right around the 25% level.

Still, for the record, here's the latest...in four states (Iowa, Indiana, Maine & Tennessee) I've just updated the requested and/or approved average increases. In the other four (Massachusetts, Montana, North & South Dakota) I've added the approved rate hikes as well.

Thanks to commenter "InTheKnow" for the heads up:

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced Tuesday that it will narrow its choices for individual Affordable Care Act plans in Iowa and will eliminate ACA individual plans in South Dakota altogether in 2017.

First, some clarification: Wellmark isn't on the exchange to begin with, and wasn't planning on joining it in SD next year, so this is a rare case of a carrier dropping their off-exchange individual market offerings. Since all of Wellmark's indy enrollees in South Dakota are paying full price, this one can't be blamed on APTC enrollees being sicker than average, etc.

Having said that, this does impact around 8,000 off-exchange enrollees in SD.

As for Iowa, it's more of a mixed bag...Wellmark is basically swapping out higher end PPO plans for lower end HMO, which is pretty much the trend everywhere:

Last month I noted that while South Dakota hadn't posted their ACA-compliant 2017 rate filings yet, they had posted their grandfathered/transitional filings, and decided to take a look at those. While GF/TR plans are down to a pretty nominal number in most states (and about half the states don't have any transitionals at all at this point), SD still has a huge portion of their individual market enrolled in them (over 1/3, from what I can tell).

Only 4 carriers appear to be participating in the ACA-compliant individual market in South Dakota next year: Aetna, Sanfrod, SD State Medical and Welmark. I only have the enrollment numbers for 3 of the 4, but the requested rate hike for the fourth one (Sanford) is pretty close to the average of the other three anyway, so it shouldn't really impact the overall average by much:

It's been nearly 2 weeks since the last update to my 2017 Requested Rate Hike project. While I've locked down the requested increases for 35 states and the District of Columbia, the remaining 15 states seem to be pretty quiet about their 2017 rate filings. Today, however, I'm able to fill in at least half of the puzzle for one state: South Dakota.

To the best of my knowledge, there are only 6 carriers offering policies on the SD indy market: Avera, DakotaCare (off-exchange only), Sanford, SD State Medical, Celtic and Wellmark BCBS. It's worth noting that DakotaCare is in the process of being bought out by Avera, but I'm not sure whether they'll be submitting separate filings or not.

SD's total individual market was roughly 73,000 people in 2014, and has presumably grown since then to perhaps 90,000 today...including grandfathered and transitional enrollees.

Not much to add here:

A special session for Medicaid expansion will have to wait, Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Wednesday.

After a weeks-long effort to lobby enough lawmakers to get the proposal approved in the Statehouse, Daugaard announced in a statement that he wouldn't call lawmakers back to Pierre.

Citing the upcoming presidential election that could result in substantial changes to the federal health insurance program for needy people, Daugaard said a special session was off the table.

“We have a good plan that would increase health care access at no additional state cost and guarantee that the federal government won’t shift its responsibility to pay for Native American health care to the state,” Daugaard said in a statement. “Still, I have heard from legislators that they would like more time to study this plan and in particular want to wait to consider the issue until after the presidential election. For that reason, I will not be calling a special session to take up this issue.”

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.

With South Dakota's DAKOTACARE dropping off the ACA exchange and asking for 63% rate hikes, this (potential) development can't come soon enough:

South Dakota may join 30 other states in expanding its Medicaid program if federal officials approve a plan Gov. Dennis Daugaard is set to outline to the nation’s top health and human services administrator in Washington on Tuesday.

The Republican governor is meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to explain the plan, and the federal government has so far been more open to discussions than in the past, said Tony Venhuizen, chief of staff to Daugaard. The proposal, which is in its early stages, would make about 48,500 South Dakota residents newly eligible for the program.

The twist this time is that the Indian Health Service, which provides healthcare coverage for around 2 million Native Americans nationally, would be involved:

A few weeks ago, I crunched the (minimal) enrollment/rate numbers for South Dakota and came up with a fairly ugly weighted average rate hike of 27.4% (ouch). Being such a small state & population, there are only 5 insurance companies total offering individual policies either or off the exchange: Avera, Sanford, Welmark, Celtic and SD State Medical Holding, otherwise known as "DAKOTACARE" for some reason (and no, I refuse to capitalize the whole thing in the headline).

This evening Louise Norris informed me that DAKOTACARE has made 2 rather startling changes of plan: First, they're dropping off of the ACA exchange and will only be selling policies off-exchange...and instead of their previously-requested 18-20% rate hike, they've suddenly decided that they have to jack up rates an eyebrow-raising 63% next year.

This is a perfect follow-up to my last story about the new Agile Insurance report.

According to their report, "100%" of South Dakota's individual insurance market products have requested double-digit rate hikes next year, which sounds bad.

However, also according to their report, "0%" of those products are seeking hikes higher than 20%.

According to Agile Health Insurance, in other words, every single South Dakota insurance plan sold on Healthcare.Gov is seeking somewhere between 10-20% hikes, right?

OK...but look what happens when you include the off-exchange "products" as well:

How the hell did that happen?

In an election where people like me are practically begging Democratic candidates in blue states to campaign on the Affordable Care Act, this is a jaw-dropping development.

South Dakota's Senate race normally would be considered a yawner. While the state does have a history of electing the moderate Democrats from time to time, it's pretty red for the most part, and no one was expecting Democrat Rick Weiland to have much of a chance against former Republican Governor Mike Rounds.

However, in an interesting development, independent candidate Larry Pressler has jumped into 2nd place in a recent poll. The thing is, Pressler isn't some no-name small timer; he's already a former U.S. Senator, serving for 3 terms before losing to Democrat Tim Johnson in 1996.

With Johnson retiring, his seat is open, and Pressler wants it back, so he's jumped back into the game. Here's the thing, though: Pressler used to be a Republican. In South Dakota.

My in box is once again flooded with ACA-related stories which are interesting but which I just don't have time to do full write-ups on...

ILLINOIS: Clock Ticking For Illinois To Form State-Run Obamacare Exchange

Unless Illinois acts quickly, it will leave hundreds of millions of federal dollars on the table that would go toward building its own health insurance marketplace, potentially upping the cost of coverage for nearly 170,000 Illinois residents. State lawmakers, unable to break a years-long standoff, have not passed a law authorizing a state-based exchange, the marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act that allow consumers to compare and buy health coverage, often with the help of federal tax credits. As a result, Illinois was one of 36 states that relied on the federal government to host its marketplace on HealthCare.gov, the website that survived a disastrous launch late last year to enroll about 217,000 Illinoisans, 77 percent of whom received federal help.

So, the absurd GOP House Energy & Commerce Committee Report which claimed that only 67% of exchange QHP enrollees are paid up has been thoroughly demolished by not just myself, but pretty much every other legitimate news media outlet there is (which leaves out FOX News, I'm afraid). In addition to only running through 4/15 (when 38% of the total QHP payments weren't even due yet), it only counted 160 of the 300+ insurance providers on the ACA exchanges, among many other ludicrous methodological flaws.

However, something did just occur to me. Take another look at their state-by-state breakout (which, again, only includes states on the Federal exchange...and even then, leaves out Idaho and New Mexico for reasons unknown), and there's several states which I find rather interesting:

Avera reported about 8,950 South Dakotans had both enrolled in its plans and paid their first premiums since the enrollment period began in October. Sanford reported 1,443 and DakotaCare 59. The total is 10,450, but the government relaxed the March 31 deadline and some enrollments are still coming in. The insurers also have some applicants who enrolled but didn't complete the purchase by paying their first premiums.

Avera, in earlier phone surveys, found that 54 percent of enrollments effective in January and February were people without coverage. Avera is studying the issue further and is working with Augustana College to explore what consumers care about most in a decision to buy.

Read that carefully--54% of the January and February-start policies were previously uninsured. That means people who enrolled between 10/1/13 - 1/15/14. All indications (and logic) are that those who enrolled later than mid-January are more likely to be newly-insured than the earlier enrollees.

Nice find out of South Dakota from contributor Maurice H.; SD was at 6,765 on 3/01. This represents only an 8% increase over February's rate in March so far, although I'm not sure how much "just over 8K" is or what date that number runs through (I'm assuming 3/20).

Just over 8,000 people have signed up for health care coverage in South Dakota.  Those signing up in the last week will also need to pay their first month's premium to get coverage. But those premiums may be lower than people expect. 

"In the state of South Dakota about 90 percent of the people purchasing insurance are getting subsidies from the federal government," Krystolpolski said.

UPDATE: On the down side, I was off by 4% this time around.

On the up side, I UNDERESTIMATED:

Actual Feb. enrollments: 942,833, for a total of 4,242,325 thru 3/01/14.

Sarah Kliff at Vox just announced that the February HHS report is expected to be released today at around 4:00pm. A few items in anticipation of that:

  • As I've noted several times, I'm projecting the report to total around 902,000 exchange-based private QHP enrollments for the month of February (technically 2/02 - 3/01)
  • If accurate, this would bring the cumulative total of exchange-based private QHP enrollments to 4.202 million (from 10/1/13 - 3/01/14)
  • From the data I have, the average daily enrollment rate in February was almost identical to that of January, which had about 1.146 million QHP enrollments. HOWEVER, the January report included five weeks of data (12/28 - 2/01), while the February report will only include four weeks (2/02 - 3/01). Therefore, even at the same daily average, it'll be about 20% lower no matter what.
  • Don't be surprised if Peter Lee of CoveredCA decides to steal some thunder by announcing that California has enrolled 1,000,000 QHPs all by itself either today or tomorrow. However, that would include the past 10 days, while the HHS number will only run thru 3/01.
  • If you want to get REALLY specific, call it 902,800 and 4,202,292.
  • I've been dead-on target 6 times in a row without hyping up my projections beforehand. This time I am hyping myself up beforehand, so I'll probably be way off...but as long as I've UNDERestimated the tally, I'll be perfectly fine with that...
  • The report will be released in about 5 minutes, but my kid gets home from school in about 10, so it'll be a good 20 minutes before I can really post anything. Feel free to follow Sarah Kliff of Vox in the meantime!

A 42% increase from South Dakota since 12/23 is pretty good by itself. However, this number only covers 2 of the 3 insurance companies participating in the exchange. I have no idea what sort of market share the 3rd company has in SD, so I can't speculate as to how many more enrollments they have to add to the total.

I've also subtracted a the corresponding 1,000 difference from the "unspecified" Federal pool at the bottom of the spreadsheet to compensate.

As of Jan. 1, about 3,550 people in South Dakota had signed up through the federal marketplace website from Avera and Sanford, with about 2,700 from Avera and about 850 from Sanford. DakotaCare figures weren’t available.