Last fall, I reported that thanks to the one-two punch of a) reinstating the ACA's individual mandate penalty at the state level and b) using the revenue generated from the mandate penalty to help fund a robust reinsurance program, the state of New Jersey had successfully lowered average unsubsidized premiums for 2019 individual market policies by a net swing of nearly 22 percentage points.
This is a very quick post as I’m in the middle of the Families USA healthcare conference, but it’s a significant one: The Massachusetts Health Connector, which wrapped up their 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period last night, just reported the following:
Here is an update as of today, with Open Enrollment having ended last night.
Note: These numbers below should be considered something of a high-water mark. There will be fluctuations as plan-selecteds lose their window, members terminate, but also some applicants end up enrolling in March coverage.
Total enrollments (Including all January, February and March enrollments to date): 292,006
Plan selected/unenrolled: 8,079
Our new enrollment (people who did not have Health Connector coverage as of Nov. 1) is 60,361. This is a 23 percent increase from last year’s 49,034 at the same point in time.
Our retention rate is currently 89.7 percent, up about 2.6 percent from last year.
So, it's over, right? Well...not quite. The 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period officially ended last night...but only in 43 states. In the remaining seven (+DC), Open Enrollment hasn't ended yet. 2019 ACA Open Enrollment is still ongoing for nearly 10% of the population!
In Massachusetts, open enrollment runs through Jan. 23rd, 2019 for coverage starting February 1st
Yeesh...when it rains, it pours! Right on top of updated and/or final 2019 Open Enrollment numbers 41 states (Idaho, Rhode Island and the 39 states hosted by HealthCare.Gov) comes yet another updated tally from Massachusetts:
As of today:
274,317 enrollments for January
2,997 enrollments for February or March
3,763 plans selected (1st premium not paid but not due yet)
Retention rate is 91 percent, up 2.6 percent from last year.
Massachusetts, home of the predecessor of Obamacare (Mitt Romney and other Republicans hate being reminded of this) doesn't reach their December deadline for January ACA coverage until Sunday, December 23rd.
As of today:
We have 262,459 enrollments for January 2019, compared to 238,631 as of a year ago.
For your CMS-definition math, we have an additional 18,345 plan selections, plus 21 effectuations for February and March, for a grand total of 280,825.
Holy smokes. Not only is the Bay State running a full 10% ahead of last year's paid effectuations as of the same point in time, when you include plan selections (which, for good or for bad, is the way that every other state's enrollments are officially counted during the Open Enrollment Period), they're already 5.1% ahead of last year's final tally.
I just received another official update from the MA Health Connector...
On enrollment, as of today, we have 261,619 enrolled members for January. We have an additional 14,368 plan selections made (but unpaid) for a total of 275,994 under the CMS definitions. New enrollments for 2019 continue to trend slightly ahead of last year.
A week or so ago I noted that Massachusetts had enrolled just over 264,000 people (10,000 of whom hadn't actually paid their January premium yet...MA's exchange is one of the only states which is able to actually track payment data live, since they handle it themselves). They were up 10K over the same date in 2017, or up around 4% year over year.
I don't have a hard "thru 12/05" number for 2017 this week, but they did confirm the 276K number is still "slightly ahead", which is good.
I just received an official 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period report from the Massachusetts Health Connector...
As of today, we have 254,177 enrolled for January 1. That is up about 10,000 from last year's 244,308 at the same date. When you include people with plans selected but not paid, we are at 264,118.
The high number is again explained by the fact that Massachusetts, like several other state-based exchanges, front-loads their auto-renewals. 254K / 244K = around a 4% increase year over year, which is solid and right in line with other state-based exchanges to date...while the federal exchange (HC.gov) continues to lag around 11% behind last year. On the other hand, HC.gov doesn't front-load auto-renewals, so it's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison.
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:
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:
NOTE: The good news is that I don't have to worry about any sabotage impact for Massachusetts in 2019 (thanks to the state still having their pre-ACA individual mandate penalty in place and banning #ShortAssPlans outright). This obviously makes that part of my analysis very easy--I can just enter "0%" across the board in the "2018 sabotage factor" columns.
The bad news is that determining the market share for each carrier in Massachusetts is a royal pain in the ass. only two of the twelve carriers offering individual market plans actually state what their enrollment numbers are, and this is further confused by the fact that several of them (Fallon, Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts) have two or three different listings for different divisions of the company.
In addition, Massachusetts is one of just two states where the individual and small group market risk pools are merged, making it even more difficult to separate out the two for market share purposes.
I wrote about this back in April, but even I didn't think much of it at the time--I assumed it was more of a symbolic proposal than anything, or that it would die in committee at most. The details are important, of course, but assuming they make sense, this is exactly the sort of approach I would recommend in trying to gradually transition to some type of universal single-payer like system. The biggest questions I'd want answered are 1) What type of coverage does Medicaid actually have in Nevada? It varies widely from state to state, so if NV's is pretty comprehensive, awesome, but if it's skimpy, that's not very helpful; 2) What sort of premiums/deductibles/co-pays would buy-in enrollees be looking at?; 3) What sort of impact would this have on the state budget?; and most significantly, 4) How many Nevada doctors/hospitals would accept these enrollees? Remember, the reason a significant chunk of healthcare providers don't accept Medicaid patients is because it only reimburses them around 50¢ on the dollar compared to private insurance.