Wisconsin

I feel kind of stupid posting this in the aftermath of not one, but two massacres in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH (at least one of which was a clear case of white nationalist terrorism inspired and encouraged by Donald Trump), but I was bout 80% done with this last night and this is part of my job, so here it is.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers posted the following press release:

Gov. Tony Evers today announced that 2020 rates on Wisconsin’s individual health insurance market will be 3.2 percent lower on a weighted average compared to 2019 rates. This encouraging news further demonstrates that the individual market is stabilizing and Wisconsin residents are able to access more affordable coverage options.

The rate decrease also highlights the positive impact of that the Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan (WIHSP), or the state’s reinsurance program, is having on the individual market. WIHSP was fully funded in the recently signed 2019-2021 state biennial budget. Without the WIHSP, rates in the individual market were expected to increase by 9 percent in 2020.

I was surprised to realize that I haven't written a word about Wisconsin since before the midterm election last fall, when Democrat Tony Evers defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker. Since then, the state has actually gone through a lot of turmoil regarding healthcare policy (and every other policy as well, of course). The GOP still controls both the state House and Senate, so during the lame duck session they tried to pull a whole mess of crap legislation to strip Evers of his authority before he even took office...as well as that of incoming Democratic state Attorney General, Josh Kaul, to prevent him from withdrawing from the plaintiff's side in the #TexasFoldEm lawsuit, among other things.

Lawsuits were filed, and a judicial tug of war has since ensued, and the last I heard, the state Supreme Court (which leans conservative by one vote) held a hearing over the mess. I'm not sure if they've issued their final ruling yet. 

In the pile-on among Republican-controlled states to impose work requirements on ACA Medicaid expansion enrollees earlier this year, I somehow missed this one:

Wisconsin waiting to hear about requiring work, drug screening for Medicaid recipients

Wisconsin is still waiting to see if the federal government will let it require childless adults on Medicaid to be screened for drugs and work if they are able.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration also asked in June to add premiums and co-pays for some adults without dependent children on Medicaid, which the federal government also must authorize.

The changes, which Walker said would help people move from public assistance to the workforce, can’t start until a year after approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

...Under Walker’s proposal, childless adults on Medicaid would have to submit to a drug test or enter drug treatment if drug screening called for it.

 

A few days ago, Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post wrote about a new phenomenon sweeping the nation: Republican candidates, all of whom have repeatedly either voted to repeal the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act or who have repeatedly called for it to be repealed, are suddenly falling all over themselves to try and claim that they support patient protections for those with pre-existing conditions...usually by invoking family members who suffer from various ailments.

Cohn's examples include GOP Congressman Mike Bishop (MI-08), who claims his wife has rheumatoid arthritis; Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), who says his daughter survived childhood leukemia; John Faso (NY-19) and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), both of whose wives survived cancer; and Josh Hawley (MO-AG, running for MO-Sen), whose son has a rare chronic disease.

Wisconsin has an interesting situation. On the one hand, the state has what should be a robust, highly-competitive individual insurance market,with over a dozen carriers offering policies throughout the state. Granted, some of them are likely limited to only a handful of counties, but in theory they should be doing pretty well compared to rural states like Oklahoma or Wyoming, which only have a single carrier on the exchange.

On the other hand, last year Wisconsin ahd among the highest average premium rate increases in the country. Rates were projected to increase by an already-awful 36%, but when the dust settled the average unsubsidized ACA enrollee in Wisconsin was paying a whopping 44% more than they did in 2017 (it was around 45.8% higher as of the end of Open Enrollment but later dropped a bit as the year has passed and net attrition has tweaked the enrollment base).

January 2018:

It looks to me like after his short-lived 2016 Presidential campaign (seriously, it only lasted 70 days...heck, even Lincoln Chafee's campaign lasted twice as long), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker decided to go back to shoring up his image in his home state...and since Wisconsin is one of 14 states which doesn't have any term limits for the top spot, it looks like he's scrambling to move back to the center policy-wise just in time to run for a third term this November:

Scott Walker proposes plan to prop up Obamacare marketplace

After years of fighting Obamacare, Gov. Scott Walker is now seeking to stabilize the state marketplace under the law.

Back in January, I noted that Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker, who has followed the party line on the ACA since it was first signed into law, has suddenly found religion:

It looks to me like after his short-lived 2016 Presidential campaign (seriously,it only lasted 70 days...heck, even Lincoln Chafee's campaign lasted twice as long), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker decidedto go back to shoring up his image in his home state...and since Wisconsin is one of 14 states which doesn't have any term limits for the top spot, it looks like he'sscrambling to move back to the center policy-wisejust in time to run for a third term this November:

Scott Walker proposes plan to prop up Obamacare marketplace

After years of fighting Obamacare, Gov. Scott Walker is now seeking to stabilize the state marketplace under the law.

Wisconsin plans to permission to cover expensive medical claims for health insurers on the marketplace, which should lower premium increases and could bring back companies that dropped out, the governor said in an interview with reporters on Friday ahead of his election-year State of the State address Wednesday.

The state will also ask to permanently continue SeniorCare, a prescription drug program Walker has previously sought to pare down, he said.

Walker also said he’ll ask the state Senate to pass a bill authored by Democratic lawmakers and passed by the Assembly that would enshrine into state law access to private insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.

In the most significant of his health care proposals, Walker will ask the Legislature to join a few other states in adopting a reinsurance programto prop up the individual market, which is used by some 216,000 residents, in a state innovation waiver allowed under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

It looks to me like after his short-lived 2016 Presidential campaign (seriously, it only lasted 70 days...heck, even Lincoln Chafee's campaign lasted twice as long), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker decided to go back to shoring up his image in his home state...and since Wisconsin is one of 14 states which doesn't have any term limits for the top spot, it looks like he's scrambling to move back to the center policy-wise just in time to run for a third term this November:

Scott Walker proposes plan to prop up Obamacare marketplace

Back in August, I posted a rough analysis of the requested rate increase situation for Wisconsin's individual market carriers. However, I cautioned at the time that I was missing the enrollment market share numbers for four of the carriers (Aspirus, Compcare, Wisconsin Physician Service and WPS), and therefore had to guess at how the rate hikes for those carriers would impact the statewide average. I estimated the numbers assuming CSR payments are made at 21.7%, and from that assumed the impact of CSR reimbursements not being made would be around 7.8 additional points being tacked onto the average.

A couple of weeks ago, the state insurance commissioner announced the approved rate increases. The good news is that I overestimated on the "CSRs paid" front. The bad news is that I underestimated on the "CSRs not paid" front: It's actually 20% and 36% respectively:

The good news is that Wisconsin has one of the most robust and competitive exchange markets in the country. The bad news is that, contrary to popular opinion, "competition" doesn't by itself magically lower prices, at least not by enough. Both Anthem and Molina are leaving the ACA exchange (although Anthem is technically sticking around off-exchange), but there's over a dozen other carriers still duking it out.

According to the 11 carriers I have enrollment numbers for, the statewide average rate increase being requested is around 20.8% assuming CSR payments are made; using the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates, that translates into roughly 32.4% assuming they aren't made. Unfortunately, I can't seem to dig up the enrollment data for four carriers: Aspirus, Compcare, Wisconsin Physician Service and WPS (I think the last two are actually subsidiaries fo the same company). Wisconsin's total individual market should be roughly 280,000 people, and when you add up all the numbers I have (including Anthem/Molina) it only comes to around 180,000, so there appear to be roughly 100,000 enrollees missing among those 4 carriers, or over 35%.

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:

I originally estimated the requested average rate hike for Wisconsin indy market carriers back in August. I came up with a weighted average of around 20%...but this was questionable due to my not being able to come up with the actual enrollment figures for 4 of the 15 carriers in the state (note: several of these have more than one entry for different types of plans):

A couple of days ago, the Wisconsin Insurance Dept. announced the approved rate increases. Unfortunately, the articles about it don't provide hard numbers for either the rate change or enrollment figures for each carrier either, but they did provide the overall weighted average increase, which is really what I'm trying to calculate anyway, so there you go:

More last-minute carrier scrambling ahead of the OE4 kickoff...

Arise Health Plan, a subsidiary of WPS Health Solutions, said Thursday that it will not sell health plans on the marketplaces set up through the Affordable Care Act next year, becoming the latest company to abandon the market.

Arise and WPS Health Insurance also will sell only high-deductible health plans for individuals and their families off the marketplace, and those plans will be available only in a limited number of counties.

...For now, the marketplace for Milwaukee County next year will have four companies offering health plans: Molina Healthcare; Network Health Plan, owned by Ascension Wisconsin and Froedtert Health; Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative; and Children’s Community Health Plan.

Waukesha County tentatively will have those companies as well as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin and Dean Health Plan.

...Arise Health Plan has a relatively small share of the market in southeastern Wisconsin.

As I noted Monday morning, I believe that August 1st was the deadline for every state to submit their 2017 rate filings, meaning that the 14 states missing from my Requested Rate Hike Project are finally available to be plugged into the spreadsheet. I'll also be going back through the other states I've been tracking since as early as April to see which ones require updates due to carriers dropping out, joining in or resubmitting their rate requests.

Wisconsin's total individual market was around 260,000 people in 2014 and is likely up to around 300,000 today (not including grandfathered/transitional enrollees), with about 224,000 enrolled on ACA exchange policies as of March 2016, plus an unknown number off-exchange. That means that the table below is likely missing around 1/3 of the total ACA-compliant market.

A source who doesn't wish to be named attended the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Common Ground Co-Op the other day (Common Ground is one of the 11 Co-Ops which survived last year's Risk Corridor Massacre), and forwarded a few tidbits of info:

  • CG is closely watching the class action lawsuit filed by the now-defunct Oregon Co-Op against the federal government over the lost risk corridor payments, as CG would benefit from a win in the case.
  • CG is open to considering outside investment funding now that CMS is allowing the Co-Ops to pursue it, but isn't scrambling to seek it out just yet. They did note that Wisconsin has a law applying to the Co-Op which requires that all board members use it for their own insurance (which makes total sense, actually). Since any outside investor would likely be on the board, they'd also have to utilize CG coverage.
  • CG is requesting 12.5% weighted average rate hikes for 2017, which is actually at the lower end of the spectrum nationally so far this year. They're also adding a new Silver plan.
  • I was also provided with an image of their overall financials for 2015 (see below). They didn't have much to say about this year since it's only May but seemed comfortable with how things are proceeding so far, and said their MLR (medical loss ratio) is "dropping" although from what to what I have no idea.

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