As regular readers know, every spring/summer I spend countless hours poring over the annual insurance carrier rate filings, plugging in increases (and occasionally decreases) in ACA-compliant premium changes for every carrier in every state. I actually do this twice for most states (and occasionally even three times), as the process moves from preliminary/requested rate changes to "semifinal" rates to "final/approved" rates throughout the fall.
For 2018 and again for 2019, I've taken this one step further; instead of simply running the overall weighted average premium changes in each state, I've also attempted to break out what portion of the change is caused by various factors...in particular, what portion is caused by legislative or regulatory changes by Congressional Republicans and/or the Trump Administration.
One of the great strengths and dangers of the ACA is that it includes tools for individual states to modify the law to some degree by improving how it works at the local level. The main way this can be done is something called a "Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver":
Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) permits a state to apply for a State Innovation Waiver to pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA.
State Innovation Waivers allow states to implement innovative ways to provide access to quality health care that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as would be provided absent the waiver, provides coverage to a comparable number of residents of the state as would be provided coverage absent a waiver, and does not increase the federal deficit.
OK, I had kind of forgotten about this. Back in early June, insurance carriers in Pennsylvania submitted their preliminary 2019 ACA market premium change requests. At the time, they averaged around a 4.9% increase statewide, which seemed pretty impressive under the circumstances.
Then, late July, the PA insurance department issued a press release stating that state regulators had modified the 2019 requests, and that the new, revised average was much lower...a mere 0.7% average rate hike. However, the individual carriers as well as the insurance department made it very clear that this nominal increase included a 6 point rate increase to account for the ACA's individual mandate being repealed and the Trump Administration's expansion of non-ACA compliant short-term and association plans.
However, the DC exchange board was also working quickly in an attempt to counter the Trump Administration's #ACASabotage factors, by voting to restrict short-term plans, to lock in DC's Open Enrollment Period at a full 3 months as in years past, and to reinstate the ACA's individual mandate penalty at the local level.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections next month, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday, calling a failed 2017 push to repeal the healthcare law a “disappointment.”
...except that the headline understates what McConnell actually said:
...On Nov. 6, Americans will vote for candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives.
McConnell’s Republicans now hold majority control of both chambers. Democrats will try to wrest control in races for all 435 House seats and one-third of the 100 Senate seats.
Despite their dominance of Congress and the White House, Republicans dramatically failed last year to overturn former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, known as Obamacare. McConnell called it “the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view.”
(note: this is a work in progress...check back soon for more additions.)
As I noted yesterday, as the 2018 midterm election rapidly approaches, there's been a sudden and complete change in strategy when it comes to healthcare policy campaiging by practically every Republican running for office this year. After nearly a decade of doing everything in their power to attack, undermine, sabotage, hack away at, trash and especially repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (that's the full title of the law, after all), GOP candidates have suddenly decided that "protecting coverage of pre-existing conditions" is a swell idea after all.
Premium Rates for Individual and Small Group Markets Individual plan premium rates may vary by age, rating area, family composition and tobacco usage. For example, a person living in Manhattan, KS (rating area 3) may pay a different rate than someone living in Pittsburg, KS (rating area 7) based on the claims data by rating area. A map of the counties included in each rating area is provided on the next page. Kansas is an effective rate review state, which means the actuarial review is conducted by the Kansas Insurance Department. KHIIS (Kansas Health Insurance Information System) claims data is utilized during the rate review process to verify the claims experience submitted by the companies. The following table provides details regarding the average requested rate revisions for companies writing individual policies in Kansas. Rate increases will be partially offset for individuals receiving a premium tax credit.
The Department of Insurance received preliminary 2019 health plan information from insurance carriers on June 1 and began reviewing the proposed plan documents and rates for compliance with Idaho and federal regulations. The Department of Insurance does not have the authority to set or establish insurance rates, but it does have the authority to deem rate increases submitted by insurance companies as reasonable or unreasonable. After the review and negotiation process, the carriers submit their final rate 2019 increase information. The public is invited to provide comments on the rate changes. Please send any comments to Idaho Department of Insurance.
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.
I ran the numbers for Illinois' requested 2019 ACA individual market rate changes back in August. At the time, the weighted year-over-year average was a mere 0.7% increase, with Cigna and Health Alliance's 10% and 7.5% being mostly cancelled out by Celtic's 1.1% and especially Blue Cross Blue Shield's slight drop of 0.9%. Since BCBSIL holds something like 3/4 of the state's individual market share, that alone mostly wiped out the other increases.
Unfortunately, I don't have access to the hard enrollment numbers, so this was a rough estimate based on 2017's breakout. Here's what it looked like at the time:
The final unsubsidized rates are down about one point more, down 6.3% from 2018 rates. However, as all three current carriers clearly noted in August, the repeal of the ACA's individual mandate and expansion of short-term and association health plans (aka #ShortAssPlans) still caused a significant premium increase, which means without those factors, 2019 rates would likely be down significantly more...likely nearly 20% instead of 6.3%:
With the 2019 Open Enrollment Period quickly approaching, I'm spending a lot of time swapping out the requested carrier rate changes from earlier this summer with the approved rate changes from state regulators.
Hawaii only has two carriers participating in the ACA-compliant individual market: HMSA and Kaiser, which requested rate increases of 2.72% and 28.6% respectively back in August. With a roughly 57/42 market share split, this resulted in a weighted average rate increase of 13.8%, which would likely have been closer to 3.8% if the ACA's individual mandate penalty hadn't been repealed.
With just 3 weeks to go before the 2019 Open Enrollment Period begins, the dust has mostly settled on my 2019 Rate Hike Project. Over half the states have provided their final, approved individual market premium changes, and while I haven't found the final rates for the other half yet, their preliminary rates are all on record, so I don't anticipate the needle moving too much at this point.
New Hampshire is among the states which I haven't found final rate changes for yet. The three carriers in the state have requested average price reductions of around 13.5% on average, which is well below the 3.2% increase which is the average nationally, but I still don't know what the state regulators are going to approve.
This makes the following press release rather surprising:
NH Insurance Department to Hold Oct. 30 Annual Public Hearing on Health Insurance Premiums