Individual Mandate

2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

As I just noted earlier this afternoon, Massachusetts is NOT expecting the repeal of the ACA's individual mandate to impact their 2019 individual market enrollment or premiums for a simple reason: The Bay State never formally repealed their own, pre-ACA mandate penalty. They basically mothballed it once the ACA's version went into effect, and are simply dusting it off for 2019 and beyond now that the federal mandate has been formally repealed.

However, the two mandate penalties don't work quite the same way. For the federal mandate, unless you qualify for an exemption (and there's a whole bunch of those), the penalty for not having ACA-compliant healthcare coverage is (or has been up until now) as follows:

This Just In...

Ready for Open Enrollment, Health Connector sets 2019 plans with lower premium increases, selects community organizations to provide in-person support to residents

Boston – September 13, 2018 – The Massachusetts Health Connector Board of Directors today approved 57 Qualified Health Plans from nine carriers for individuals and families, with new plan designs that create better value for members and premium increases that average under 5 percent from 2018.

Unfortunately, the press release doesn't specify what "under 5%" means, nor does it break that out by carrier/market share. I've put in a request for those details and will update this as soon as I hear back from them. They sent me the following chart, but this only includes enrollees earning between 300-400% of the Federal Poverty Level, which means the marketshare across the entire individual market is likely somewhat different. I'm assuming the 4.4% overall average applies to the entire market but could be wrong about that as well:

Iowa has only a single insurance carrier offering ACA-compliant individual market policies this year. Next year they'll have two, as Wellmark has decided to Hokey Pokey their way back onto the exchange again in 2019...but since they weren't around this year, there's no current policy premiums to measure any increase (or decrease) against.

That leaves Medica. Here's what they had to say about their 2019 rates back in June:

Medica, the sole carrier now selling individual health insurance policies in Iowa, plans to raise its 2019 premiums by less than a tenth as much as it did for 2018.

Medica raised its Iowa health insurance premiums by a staggering average of 57 percent for 2018. It was the steepest such health insurance increase in Iowa history. Company leaders said last summer they needed the higher premiums to stay in the market. But this time around, the Minnesota-based carrier is planning to raise Iowa premiums by an average of less than 5.6 percent, state regulators disclosed Wednesday.

New Jersey was one of a handful of states with a newly-full blue government which took swift and decisive action to cancel out some of the worst ACA sabotage efforts of the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans this year. The following bills were passed by the state legislature and signed by new Governor Phil Murphy:

  • Reinstate the ACA's individual mandate penalty,
  • Establish a robust reinsurance program to significantly lower insurance premiums for individual market enrollees,
  • Protect people from out-of-network "balance billing", and
  • Cancel out Trump's expansion of "Association Health Plans"
  • In addition, New Jersey already outlawed "Short-Term Plans" (and "Surprise Billing") before the ACA was passed anyway.

Less than one month ago:

...back in February...the executive board of the DC ACA exchange unanimously voted to reinstate the mandate. It didn't mean all that much at the time, however, because the authority to reinstate it actually belongs to the DC Council.

Well, thanks to Mr. Levitis for the heads up. If you scroll down to Page 138, you can see that the DC Council has indeed done just that:

TITLE V. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
SUBTITLE A. INDIVIDUAL HEALTH INSURANCE REQUIREMENT

Sec. 5001. Short title.
This subtitle may be cited as the “Health Insurance Requirement Amendment Act of 2018”.

Sec. 5002. Title 47 of the District of Columbia Official Code is amended as follows:
(a) The table of contents is amended by adding a new chapter designation to read as follows:
“51. Individual Taxpayer Health Insurance Responsibility Requirement”.
(b) A new Chapter 51 is added to read as follows:
“CHAPTER 51. INDIVIDUAL TAXPAYER HEALTH INSURANCE RESPONSIBILITY REQUIREMENT.

This Just In...

State’s Market Stability Workgroup Recommends Immediate Action to Protect Rhode Islanders from Federal Threats to Health Insurance Access and Affordability

Posted on June 27, 2018 | By HealthSource RI

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 27, 2018) – Rhode Island must act “without delay” to protect consumers from rising health coverage costs brought on by federal policy changes according to a report issued to Governor Raimondo by the state’s Market Stability Workgroup.

“People representing a wide variety of viewpoints engaged in lively discussions over the course of 8 weeks,” said Workgroup co-chair Bill Wray, Chief Risk Officer at the Washington Trust. “The fruits of those discussions are in this report. All of us – consumer advocates, business groups, health insurers and providers – were able to broadly agree on how best to protect Rhode Island’s insurance markets.”

*(technically Vermont was the third to do so, but theirs doesn't kick into effect until 2020, and they haven't even crystalized exactly what form it would take anyway.)
**(yeah, I know very well that DC isn't actually a state, but it's pretty awkward to put "state and/or territory" in the headline.)

I realize that 110% of the news/media/political attention is on the bombshell announcement that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring at the end of July, but there are other things going on as well, so I'll do my best to soldier on...

More big health care action at the state level: yesterday the DC Council passed what would be the nation's third state-level individual mandate, after Mass. and NJ.https://t.co/BmtnDAQvVp

— Jason A. Levitis (@jasonlevitis) June 27, 2018

Presented without comment:

AHIP Issues Statement Regarding TX v. United States of America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) issued the following statement regarding the latest developments in TX v. United States of America:

“Millions of Americans rely on the individual market for their coverage and care, and they deserve affordable choices that deliver the value they expect. Initial filings for 2019 plans have shown that, while rates are higher due to the zeroing out of the individual mandate penalty, the market is more steady for most consumers than in previous years, with insurance providers stepping in to serve more consumers in more states.

This is about as simple as I could make it. It's an absolutely absurd argument, but there it is:

Last night I made a big fuss about New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signing a restoration of the ACA's individual mandate penalty into law.

It turns out that the Governor of Vermont also signed the ACA mandate restoration bill I wrote about back in March into law a few days ago as well...but it's not as noteworthy, for several reasons. As Louise Norris reports over at healthinsurance.org:

Vermont governor signs legislation to implement an individual mandate starting in 2020; working group will sort out enforcement details

Last week I noted that the New Jersey state legislature, along with new Governor Phil Murphy, has moved quickly to pass and sign into law a number of critical ACA protection bills, to:

  • Reinstate the ACA's individual mandate penalty,
  • Establish a robust reinsurance program to significantly lower insurance premiums for individual market enrollees,
  • Protect people from out-of-network "balance billing", and
  • Cancel out Trump's expansion of "Association Health Plans"

In addition, New Jersey already outlawed "Short-Term Plans" (and "Surprise Billing") before the ACA was passed anyway.

Well, until today, there was some lingering doubt about the first two bills (which are connected...the reinsurance program would be partly funded by the revenue from the state-level mandate penalty), as Gov. Murphy was reportedly kind of iffy about signing them. As I understand it, he's been supportive of both ideas but is concerned about the potential budget hit in case the mandate penalty revenue doesn't raise enough to cover its share of the reinsurance program.

For a couple of months now, I've been attempting to track a slew of state-based "ACA 2.0" bills slowly winding their way through various state legislatures. However, this is really a bit of a misnomer, since some of these bills aren't so much about expanding the ACA as they are about protecting it from various types of undermining or sabotage from the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans.

In fact, as far as I'm concerned, they really fall into three categories, which line up nicely with my color-coded "3-Legged Stool" metaphor: Blue, Green and Red Leg bills.

Once again: The "Blue Leg" of the Stool covers everything which ACA-compliant individual health insurance carriers are required to include: Guaranteed Issue, Community Rating, 10 Essential Health Benefits, a Minimum 60% Actuarial Value rating, no Annual or Lifetime Caps on coverage, and a long list of mandatory Preventative Services at no out-of-pocket cost when done in-network.

 

So apparently Donald Trump's former Health & Human Services Secretary (and lover of first-class airfare on the taxpayer's dime) Tom Price addressed the World Health Care Conference this morning, and offered this gem:

Price says that he's not a big fan of the GOP tax bill's 2019 individual mandate repeal-- says it will harm the pool in the exchange markets & drive up costs

— Ariel Cohen (@ArielCohen37) May 1, 2018

Really. Gee. you don't say.

Making my eyeballs roll even further back in my head, here's what Price said just nine months ago (shortly before he was given the boot from the HHS Dept.):

Tom Price before/after shot/chaser:

I've noted before that now that the Republicans in Congress have repealed the ACA's much-hated (but vitally necessary) individual mandate penalty (effective 2019), the odds of it being reinstated at the federal level are virtually zilch. Even if there's a massive blue wave in November and the Democrats are able to retake both the House and Senate, they're extremely unlikely to be willing to face the same type of firestorm/backlash that they did back in 2009-2010 over it.

If you need proof of this, take a look at the "ACA 2.0" bills recently proposed by both the House and Senate Dems. Both versions check a whole bunch of items off of my "If I Ran the Zoo" wish list...but neither one includes restoring (much less increasing) the Individual Mandate penalty at the federal level.

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.

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