Republican lawmakers in Utah voted in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday to shelve a plan to provide health care for about 95,000 of the state’s poor.
After months of negotiations earlier this year, the Health Reform Task Force unveiled a scaled down of the Healthy Utah plan for Medicaid expansion called Utah Access Plus. Under the new plan, the federal government would pick up about $450 million. An additional $50 million would be funded by taxes on doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other medical providers.
On Tuesday, the Republican caucus gathered behind closed doors to determine whether it would allow the new proposal to move forward. According to KUER, lawmakers decided to kill the plan, leaving the future of Medicaid expansion uncertain in Utah.
Strike That: Apparently the Republicans immediately followed up crushing the spirits of 95,000 of their fellow Utahns by...eating birthday cake.
Over at HealthInsurance.org, Louise Norris has done her usual excellent job of summarizing the enrollment/rate/exchange participation situation for another state, Utah. As she notes, in addition to the companies which operated on the Utah ACA exchange this year, one more "mystery" company is expected to join in 2016. Of course, Louise only focuses on the companies actually operating on the exchange, while I'm looking at the entire ACA-compliant individual market state-wide (because the risk pool includes off-exchange policies as well).
Fortunately, Utah has a fairly comprehensive rate review database with an easy-to-use lookup feature. Unfortunately, a few of the entries don't quite jibe with HHS's RateReview website. Most notably, the HHS site claims that Arches Mutual Insurance has 2 filings from the same date: One requesting a jaw-dropping 58% hike, the other for a slightly less-insane 46.65% increase, neither of which includes the actual number of covered lives:
Breakthrough — Utah GOP leaders reach a deal on Medicaid expansion
Republican leaders have agreed to a broad, conceptual framework for expanding Medicaid to insure tens of thousands of low-income Utahns with a plan that would call on medical providers to pay for the new health coverage.
The so-called Gang of Six — Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, House Speaker Greg Hughes, House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan and Sen. Brian Shiozawa — huddled this week constructing the skeleton of a new Medicaid plan to replace the governor's Healthy Utah and the House's Utah Cares proposals.
On Friday, they announced their agreement, saying it was sustainable and would protect other key areas of the budget.
I have a ton of ACA-related stories cluttering up my in-box again; here's some of the more interesting ones, all regarding ACA Medicaid Expansion:
For months now, I've been a bit obsessed with figuring out how my home state's Medicaid expansion enrollment has managed to reach as high as 21% more people than were supposedly even eligible for the program. Estimates last year ranged from 477,000 - 500,000, yet enrollment in Healthy Michigan (Gov. Snyder's name for Obamacare Medicaid Expansion) currently sits at a whopping 579K, less than 1 year into the program.
Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday that after months of negotiations, he has reached a final agreement with the Obama administration on his novel alternative to expanding Medicaid.
"They are giving us more flexibility than has been given to any other state in America. We are breaking some new ground," Herbert announced in his monthly press conference on KUED.
Herbert said he soon will send to the Obama administration a letter outlining the agreement they’ve reached on Utah’s alternative, his Healthy Utah plan.
The deal would help low-income Utahns earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level who are not covered by Medicaid buy private health insurance plans.
From the sounds of it, it looks like this will be set up along the lines of the Arkansas "private option" program, which basically amounts to using Medicaid funding to cover practically 100% of the cost of private QHPs.
There's been a lot of fuss made about 2015 ACA exchange premium rates not being available at Healthcare.Gov until after the election. The presumption, of course, is that this is being done for political reasons. While this may be true, it could also simply be that there's a lot of different policy figures to plug into the federal system, and some states haven't even finalized their rates yet.
That being said, residents of some states can check out the 2015 premiums now and compare them against their current premium:
IDAHO: Idaho is the only state moving from HC.gov to their own exchange. Idaho residents can check out their 2015 rates directly via the state exchange site.
Of course it would've been even more "win, win, win all around" if they'd just done this 9 months ago, but I'll take it...
The Obama administration has agreed in concept to Utah’s novel alternative to expanding Medicaid, including the notion that able-bodied people who get insurance subsidies should accept the state’s help with finding work, Gov. Gary Herbert said late Tuesday.
The governor said after a meeting with Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, that a final agreement is two or three weeks away.
HHS did not agree that insurance subsidies would be contingent on recipients holding a job or looking for work, but the agency did agree that employment can be a goal of Utah’s program, Healthy Utah.
"It’s a win, win, win all the way around," the governor said, describing the negotiations as resulting in federal approval of 95 percent of his Healthy Utah plan.
The estimate of how many Utahns would be eligible ranges from 54K - 75K; I have it down as 61K, right in the middle.
Back when I assumed that I'd be pulling the plug on this website after March 31st, I didn't see the point of keeping track of the states which finally came around and added Medicaid expansion after the end of the Open Enrollment period. Not that I didn't think it was important, mind you; I just assumed that this site would be winding down in early April anyway, so it would be kind of pointless.
However, now that practically every state is extending their enrollment out to April 15 (or beyond, in a couple of cases) for those who started their application before Monday, along with the fact that Medicaid enrollment doesn't have a deadline anyway along with numerous other exceptions, it behooves me to make note of additions to the Expansion party as they come along.
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.
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!