Now that I've developed a standardized format/layout & methodology for tracking both state- and county-level COVID vaccination levels by partisan lean (which can also be easily applied to other variables like education level, median income, population density, ethnicity, etc), I've started moving beyond my home state of Michigan.
NOTE: The CDC lists ~279,000 West Virginia residents (a whopping 84.4% of the total fully vaccinated)whose county of residence is unknown, which would make the graphs below unusable. Fortunately, the COVID Act Now database appears to have acquired the actual county-level data directly from the West Virginia Health Dept, so I'm using their data instead for WV.
There are three insurance carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market plans in West Virginia: CareSource, Highmark BCBS and Optum, although Optum has barely any enrollees at all, and the other two combined only total around 21,000 people in the state. The preliminary 2021 rate filings for the WV individual marekt is around a 4.8% average increase.
I have no idea what the enrollment numbers are for WV's small group carriers, so I can't run a weighted average, but the unweighted average increase for 2021 comes in at around 3.8% across the five sm. group carriers:
There are three insurance carriers offering ACA-compliant individual market plans in West Virginia: CareSource, Highmark BCBS and Optum, although Optum has barely any enrollees at all, and the other two combined only total around 26,000 people in the state.
The final, approved average unsubsdized premiums for 2020 haven't changed from the requested rates--the weighted statewide average is a 6.7% increase.
Nothing terribly noteworthy about any of this, except that with that 6.7% increase, West Virginia has just taken the title for Most Expensive Obamacare Premiums in the Country, with average premiums averaging $990/month per enrollee, or nearly $12,000/year apiece.
This record was held by Wyoming last year (prior to that I believe Alaska had by far the highest rates in the country, until they instituted their ACA reinsurance waiver a few years back, which reduced full-price premiums by a good 25% or so).
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:
West Virginia has three carriers offering policies on the Individual Market: CareSource, Highmark and The Health Plan of WV (aka Optum). I was ble to find the hard enrollment number for CareSource, while both HighMark and Optum are redacted, so I based my enrollment estimates on 83% of last year's (WV's total ACA exchange enrollment dropped 17% this year). Even if that ratio is off, it won't make that much of a difference since the two are pretty close anyway (+5.9% and +6.5% respectively).
Statewide, unsubsidized West Virginians will be seeing roughly a 6.7% average increase...to a whopping $1,000/month on average, one of the highest rates in the country. Of course, WV is also one of the few states which, to my knowledge, is still refusing to Silver Load or Silver Switch their premium increases, which makes it even worse for the few unsubsidized enrollees they have.
Meanwhile, the unweighted average increase on the WV small group market is +11.2%.
Amidst all the depressing news about various GOP states moving backwards on healthcare policy by gunking up Medicaid programs to add draconian work requirements, lowering the eligibility thresholds, stripping benefits and so forth, there were two positive developments in deep red territory last week, both relating to Medicaid work requirements:
A bill that sought to place work or other requirements on Medicaid recipients in West Virginia has died in the House of Delegates.
A House committee put the bill on its inactive calendar Wednesday, Feb. 27, the final day that legislation could be passed in their chamber of origin. The full House earlier Wednesday debated the bill but stopped short of voting on it, and did not take up the bill during a late evening session before adjourning.
The bill would have required able-bodied adults to work, participate in workforce training or community service, or attend a drug treatment or recovery program for at least 20 hours per week.
Last week, the state of Arkansas released its latest round of data on implementation of its Medicaid work reporting requirement – the first in the country to be implemented. As readers of SayAhhh! know, over 18,000 lost coverage in 2018 as a result of not complying with the new reporting rules. And the policy is clearly failing to achieve its purported goal – incentivizing work – with less than 1% of those subject to the new policy newly reporting work or community engagement activities.
I realize this may seem a bit late in the game seeing how the 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period has already started, but I do like to be as complete and thorough as possible, and there were still 9 states missing final/approved premium rate change analyses as of yesterday which I wanted to check off my 2019 Rate Hike Project list.
Fortunately, RateReview.HealthCare.Gov has finally updated their database to include the approved rate changes for every state, which made it easy to take care of most of these.
However, while state insurance regulators left one of the three carriers offering individual market policies alone, they knocked the other two down substantially: CareSource was lowered from around 13.1% to 9.5%, while Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield was lowered from an average of 15.9% to 9.0%.
The most noteworthy thing about West Virginia's 2019 filings that I can see is that CareSource is expanding their state coverage from 10 counties to 35 counties, and the confirmation that West Virginia will remain one of the few states sticking with a Broad Load CSR strategy for reasons unknown next year (the state insurance commissioner might change their tune, however, now that CMS has done a complete 180 degree turn and has officially come out in favor of Silver Switching).
In any event, the statewide average premium hike appears to be around 14.9%...but once again, much of this is due to the ACA's individual mandate being repealed and Trump opening the floodgates on #ShortAssPlans.
At $843/month, West Virginia has one of the highest average monthly premiums in the country...and instead of only going up nominally next year, thanks to #ACASabotage, unsubsidized enrollees will likely have to pay a whopping $1,300 more apiece next year.
Up until a week ago, the possibility of Donald Trump pulling the plug on Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursement payments was a looming threat every day. While it hadn't actually happened yet, most of the state insurance commissioners and/or insurance carriers themselves saw the potential writing on the wall and priced their 2018 premiums accordingly (or at the very least prepared two different sets of rate filings to cover either contingency).
A few spread the extra CSR load across all policies, both on and off the exchange. This seems like the "fairest" way of handling things on the surface, but is actually the worst way to do so, because it hurts all unsubsidized enrollees no matter what they choose for 2018 and can even make things slightly worse for some subsidized enrollees in Gold or Platinum plans.