Washington State

I haven't done these average-rate-increase posts in a while, but this one came across my screen today so I figured I should post about it.

Back in August, Washington State announced that they had final approved rates on the 90 plans being offered on the WA exchange, with an average increase of 1.9%. However, I didn't know what the market share breakdown was at the time, so I couldn't tell whether that was weighted or not.

Well, today they've issued a more comprehensive press release, covering both on- and off-exchange policies (230 total: 90 on the exchange, 140 off of it). The unweighted overall average increase is a mere 1.5%:

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Individuals and families looking for health insurance this fall have 15 insurers and 230 health plans to choose from, starting Nov. 15.

The average approved rate change was 1.5 percent. Originally, the insurers requested an average 8.3 percent increase, but it was lowered after a review by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

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.

CALIFORNIA: CoveredCA has 2015 rates available right now as well.

WASHINGTON: Health Exchange leaders are trying to solve the problems from the first sign-up period

CLARKSTON, WA – Leaders with Washington’s Health Care Exchange are preparing for the second open enrollment period, but at the same time they are still working on resolving billing and computer problems for 1,300 accounts from the first sign-up period.

IOWA: Three health insurers get OK to increase rates

This is very confusingly worded, because it makes it sound like all 3 companies have been operating on the HC.gov exchange when it turns out that only 2 of them have. Wellmark did not participate in the ACA exchange; the 19,000 customers referred to here have off-exchange policies which are still ACA-compliant:

Commissioner Nick Gerhart said today that he has approved premium increases from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, CoOportunity Health and Coventry Health.

According to the last official HHS enrollment report from back in May, as of April 19, 2014, Washington State had enrolled 163,207 people in private policies via their ACA exchange. Of those, 8,310 people never actually had their coverage start due to non-payment (WA requires payment of the first month's premium as part of the enrollment process, so I'm not sure what happened in these cases, but presumably there was some sort of credit card account approval glitch, insufficient funds in debit card accounts and/or the like).

In any event, that means the actual paid tally as of 4/19 was 154,897, or 95%, which is pretty darned good.

Well, a couple of days ago the WA exchange issued a press release regarding the renewal process for 2015, and included 2 key data nuggets. First up:

Between my son being sick for the past 4 days (he's better now, thanks!), losing my internet connection for 2 days (it's back up now, thanks!) and just generally being swamped with work, I don't have time to give these stories the attention they deserve, but they're all worth checking out:

D.C.’s health exchange is still hampered by delays, glitches 11 months after launch

While Democratic partisans tout the latest conventional wisdom that Obamacare is finally going strong, the experience of many ordinary people who apply for it says otherwise.

The ongoing delays and irritation that consumers endure while navigating the District’s health insurance exchange offer a window into the reality on the street.

More health insurance options increase choice — and possibly confusion

Wow! The WA Health Benefit Exchange, which hasn't issued an actual enrollment update since the end of the Open Enrollment period, just came through in a big way:

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Healthplanfinder today announced 11,497 Washingtonians have taken advantage of special enrollment periods since March 31 that allow them to enroll through wahealthplanfinder.org if they have a qualifying life event outside of the standard open enrollment period. The next open enrollment period starts on Nov. 15, 2014 for coverage beginning in 2015.

Data also shows that nearly 700,000 residents are now enrolled in new free or low-cost health coverage options, with more than 147,000 customers currently enrolled in Qualified Health Plans. Including customers who are renewing their existing Medicaid coverage, more than 1.28 million residents have enrolled in health coverage through wahealthplanfinder.org.

The Washington State Insurance Commissioner just released a chart listing all of the companies operating on the exchange this fall (including 3 new ones, bringing the total to 12), how many plans they're each offering, the requested rate change and the approved ones for most of them.

Unfortunately, they don't include an actual enrollee breakdown, so I can't tell whether this is a weighted or unweighted average. Judging from the numbers provided, it looks like an unweighted average would be just 0.1%, so I'm guessing that the 1.9% mentioned in the press release is weighted, but I'd be more confident of this if they included how many people were enrolled by each company.

(h/t to Josh Z. for pointing out the uncertainty here)

In any event, the original average requested increase was 8.6% (4.8% unweighted), so this is still great news either way.

In addition, the total number of plans has doubled from 46 to 90:

90 health plans approved for next year’s Exchange with a record low 1.9 percent rate change – Exchange Board set to certify plans on Aug. 28

Even in states whose ACA exchanges have operated pretty smoothly such as Connecticut and Kentucky, there's bound to be some technical problems. Washington State is no exception. As a result, the WA insurance commissioner has announced that anyone who tried to enroll earlier but has struggled with billing, payment or other technical issues (WA is one of only 2 states that run payments through the exchange and require the 1st months premium to be paid before even reporting the enrollment) can now give it another shot or make whatever changes are necessary without requiring a "qualifying life event" to do so:

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange (the Exchange), also known as the Washington Healthplanfinder, is making progress to correct the enrollment and payment difficulties that have affected some consumers. Those fixes are continuing, but may take additional time to resolve.

I've been too busy with my day job (I do have one, you know...) to post much lately, but plenty of ACA-related news has piled up, so I'm clearing off my desk with some quick bits:

ARKANSAS:

Mark Pryor shows Democrats how they should campaign on the Affordable Care Act in a red state. You don't have to mention Obamacare (which technically doesn't even exist), you don't have to even mention the Affordable Care Act. You do have to personalize what the law actually means for real people with real medical issues which were fixed or improved by the law:

Read more on this ad & angle from Greg Sargent of the Washington Post.

VERMONT:

I just posted an entry noting that Washington State was reporting having exactly 156,155 paid exchange-based QHP enrollments as of June 1st.

Now, this is noteworthy because according to an earlier update, as of around a week earlier, the state had reported adding "between 2,000 - 3,000" exchange QHP enrollees between the end of open enrollment on 3/31 (WA did not offer an extension period) and May 27th; let's split the difference and call it 2,500. Add that to the official 3/31 total and you get around 166,500.

What accounts for the roughly 10,000 person difference? Well, the first number includes both enrollments and cancellations after the first month. Remember, Washington State only reports enrollments once the first month's premium has actually been paid, so these should be "clean" numbers.

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