California

2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

This evening brought three major pieces of ACA-related news out of three different states:

First, in California, the State Senate passed SB-910, which wouldn't just limit short-term plans, but would outright prohibit them altogether. To my knowledge, CA would be the only state where STPs wouldn't be allowed at all:

SACRAMENTO – Today, the State Senate approved passage of Senate Bill 910, which prohibits the sale of short term limited duration health insurance in California.

Authored by Senator Ed Hernandez, O.D. (D-West Covina) and approved by bipartisan a vote of 27-10, SB 910 was introduced in response to the Trump Administration’s recent proposed regulations to expand short term limited duration coverage to less than 12 months.

OK, this doesn't technically count as an official 2019 Rate Hike analysis since none of it comes from actual carrier rate filings, but Covered California, the largest state-based ACA exchange, just released their proposed 2018-2019 annual budget, and it includes detailed projections regarding expected premium increases and enrollment impact over the next few years due specifically to the GOP's repeal of the ACA's Individual Mandate. Oddly, while they mention short-term plan expansion as another potential threat to enrollment/premiums, they do so passingly, and they don't mention association plans at all:

Since 2014, nearly 5 million people have enrolled in Medi-Cal due to the Affordable Care Act expansion, and more than 3.5 million have been insured for some period of time through Covered California. Together, the gains cut the rate of the uninsured in California from 17 percent in 2013 to a historic low of 6.8 percent as of June 2017.

Covered California Analysis Shows Major Declines in New Enrollment Nationally and Identifies Policies That Could Lower Premiums in 2019

  • Enrollment in the federally facilitated marketplace has dropped 9 percent over the past two years, with a nearly 40 percent drop in new enrollment, while enrollment in state-based marketplaces remained steady during the same period.

Nothing new under the sun here; this is the core of what I do at ACASignups.net. In fact, this press release underplays the point slightly: The official enrollment tallies are down 10% on the federal exchange since 2016 and up 1.5%, although the discrepancy might be partly due to Kentucky shifting from state-based status to federal status in 2017.

The California Health Care Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropic organization. From their About page:

The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.

Over the past few weeks, in the midst of the failed Republican-sponsored "ACA stabilization bill" known as Alexander-Collins (which laughably included "Bipartisan" in the title evne though it had changed dramatically from the actual bipartisan bills which Senators Patty Murray and Bill Nelson had worked with Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins on last fall), Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced real ACA stabilization/improvement bills of their own.

The official names of these bills are the "Undo Sabotage and Expand Affordability of Health Insurance Act of 2018" (USEAHIA) and the "Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act" (CHIPA) respectively, but for pretty obvious reasons I'm shortening each of them to simply "ACA 2.0".

OK, this is just kind of...odd.

As regular readers will recall, after three years of full 3 month Open Enrollment Periods across every state, last year the Trump Administration slashed the official Open Enrollment Period in half, down to just 6 weeks, from November 1 - January 31 down to November 1 - December 15th.

In response, most of the state-based exchanges announced that they were sticking with a longer period anyway, ranging anywhere from a 7th week all the way out to the full 3 month period, in the case of California, New York and the District of Columbia...each of which kept things going all the way through January 31st as had become the norm.

California even went one step further, passing a state law specifically mandating a 3-month Open Enrollment Period for 2018 and beyond.

Until today, I've been operating on the assumption that they'd be sticking with the November/December/January schedule which had become the default.

Apparently not, however. According to Louise Norris:

Today, Covered California issued a new study about the projected impact of Donald Trump and Congressional Republican efforts to undermine and sabotage the Affordable Care Act not just in 2019, but over the next 3 years. They main focus is on two sabotage moves which have already happened (repeal of the individual mandate and the shortened/underfunded marketing of the open enrollment period on the federal exchange) and one which is on the verge of happening (Trump's "Short Term and Association Plan" executive order, aka #ShortAssPlans).

Here's what they concluded:

Covered California’s Executive Director Addresses Harvard Study on Impact of Eliminating Individual Mandate on Enrollment and Premium

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee issued the following statement in connection with the Harvard Medical School Study, “Eliminating the Individual Mandate Penalty in California: Harmful but Non-Fatal Changes in Enrollment and Premiums,”published in Health Affairs. The Harvard study, conducted by a team lead by Dr. John Hsu, is the first national effort to measure the potential impacts of removing the individual mandate penalty based on surveying actual California consumers about their likely actions in the face of there being no penalty.

Note: This is more of a placeholder for the moment; it'll be updated as soon as the numbers are available.

At around 10:30am this morning, Covered California will be announcing their final, official 2018 ACA Open Enrollment Period numbers, along with other various demographic info.

Keep in mind that California is second only to Florida in terms of ACA exchange enrollees, with around 13% of the national total each year, so this is a big deal.

The most recent updates from the largest state-based exchange pegged their numbers at 1,542,000 QHP selections as of January 21st, including:

  • "more than" 1.2 million renewing enrollees, and
  • "more than" 342,000 new enrollees signing up.

Last year Covered CA's 1/31 total hit 1,556,676 (or just under 15,000 enrollees higher). In 2016 they had their all-time high of 1,575,340, so they'd have to have tacked on about 34,000 more over the final 10 days of Open Enrollment this year in order to beat their record.

This announcement is far less surprising than the one from the DC exchange I posted a few minutes ago...

Final Day of Open Enrollment! Covered California Will Help Consumers Who Get Caught Up in Surge of Last-Minute Shoppers

  • Covered California’s open-enrollment period ends at midnight tonight.
  • Due to an expected increase in demand today, consumers who start an application before midnight will be able to work with a certified enroller to complete the process on Thursday or Friday.
  • Covered California Service Center representatives are available to help through midnight on the 31st and through 8 p.m. on Feb. 1 and 2. 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On the final day of open enrollment, with tens of thousands of people expected to sign up for health coverage, Covered California announced it would help consumers “cross the finish line” if they get caught up in the surge of last-minute shoppers.

Covered California Announces Continued Strong Enrollment and Reminds Consumers That Penalty Remains in Place Through 2018

  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement that consumers have health insurance remains in place, and consumers may face stiff tax penalties if they are not covered in 2018.
  • A recent study estimates 70 percent of consumers, who are uninsured and eligible for financial help, could purchase health insurance coverage for less than the price of the tax penalty.
  • Most consumers are paying less in monthly premiums than they did a year ago.
  • More than 342,000 consumers have newly enrolled during the current open-enrollment period, which remains ahead of last year’s pace, and continues in California through Jan. 31.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced new enrollment figures as it approaches the final weeks of the annual open-enrollment period, and sought to quell consumer confusion by clarifying the federal penalty rules in place for 2018.

via Covered California, yesterday:

  • An analysis of potential premium changes in states across the nation shows increases of 16 to 30 percent likely in 2019 if federal steps are not taken.
  • While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s subsidies would largely insulate subsidized consumers from these costs, millions of unsubsidized consumers would pay the full price of these increases. Many would likely be priced out of coverage.
  • Continued policy and premium uncertainty risks further carrier withdrawals, leaving more consumers with only one health plan and even the prospect of “bare counties.”
  • The analysis reviews three federal policy options that could stabilize markets and mitigate the impact of premium increases in many states.
  • Covered California’s open-enrollment period is still underway and consumers have through Jan. 31 to sign up for coverage.

Covered California just announced their latest 2018 Open Enrollment Period numbers:

  • 220,000 new enrollees as of 12/15 (10% higher than last year)
  • Extended Jan. start deadline to 12/22 to handle high demand
  • Final deadline still same as last year (1/31/18)
  • ~1.2 million active or passive renewals
  • ~1.4 million total enrollees (renewals + new enrollments)

Assuming the 1.2 million figure is very close to the exact number, that makes the total number around 1.42 million QHP selections.

This brings CoveredCA within 9% of last year's total, and within 10% of their all-time total set a year earlier.

The official total as of 12/17 last year (with an extra 2 days) was 1,437,150 enrollments, about 1% higher. Given that CoveredCA is keeping to the same January 31st deadline as prior years, I'm pretty sure they'll end up very close to last year's final total when the dust settles.

UPDATE: Here's the full press release with a bunch of other info:

Covered California Looks Ahead to 2019 With Continued Strong Enrollment but National Uncertainty

Covered California Extends Enrollment Deadline as Consumer Interest Surges

  • The number of new consumers signing up for coverage remains ahead of last year’s pace, with more than 38,000 selecting a plan during the past three days.
  • Consumers now have until the end of Dec. 22 to sign up for health care coverage that will begin on Jan. 1.
  • Based on the first month’s enrollment, most consumers are paying less for coverage.
  • Covered California is working to distinguish the deadline for open enrollment in California — which ends Jan. 31 — from the shorter period for much of the nation.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In response to a strong surge in demand, Covered California is giving consumers more time to sign up for health coverage that will begin on Jan. 1, 2018.

Covered California has released another 2018 Open Enrollment Update report...and thankfully, they finally included their renewal numbers as well as the new additions:

Covered California’s Open Enrollment Continues at a Brisk Pace with New Data Showing Most Consumers Who Renewed and Enrolled in November will Pay Less in 2018

More than 102,000 new consumers selected a plan during the first month of open enrollment, a 28 percent increase over the same time period last year.

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