Washington State: Preliminary 2019 ACA rate hike request: 19.1%, largely due to ACA sabotage

2019 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

The good news? As I reported a week or so ago, every county in Washington State will have at least one carrier on the ACA exchange next year.

The bad news? As expected, thanks in large part to sabotage of the ACA by Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, the average requested 2019 premium increase for unsubsidized enrollees is 19.1%:

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Eleven health insurers filed 74 health plans for Washington state’s 2019 individual and family health insurance market, with an average proposed rate increase of 19.08 percent. There are no bare counties, although 14 counties will have only one insurer selling through Washington’s Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. 

“I’m relieved to see lower rate requests than we expected by most insurers and coverage in every county, but any increase will be hard for consumers to bear,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “We're committed to working on solutions that improve affordability and consumer choice and will review these filings very carefully.

“There’s still a great deal of uncertainty in individual markets across the country, fueled by the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Instead of getting behind solutions that shore up these markets, the administration seems solely focused on undermining our health insurance system and the individuals and families who need to buy their coverage in the individual market.  

“If the administration was serious about providing relief to consumers, it would abandon its proposals to segment the market with association health plans and short-term, limited-duration medical plans and work with Congress to pass market stabilization legislation and find solutions to the rising costs of health care and prescription drugs.”

All proposed rates, health plans and coverage areas are under review and may change. Once Kreidler’s review is complete, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board is scheduled to certify plans for sale through Washington Healthplanfinder on Sept. 13. Open enrollment for the 2019 individual market starts Nov. 1.

Approximately 268,400 people buy their health insurance through the individual market and more than 60 percent of people currently enrolled through Washington Healthplanfinder receive a subsidy to help lower their premiums.

The Washington Insurance Dept. did the grunt work for me by listing all of the carriers and their average rate requests in a nice neat table, although the weighted average I get doesn't quite match up with theirs (they say it's 19.08%; I get 18.47%...and I seem to be missing nearly 22,000 enrollees in my tally; I'll double-check to see if I can find the discrepancy):

UPDATE: OK, thanks to Louise Norris for the catch; for Kaiser Foundation of WA I had it down as 101,000 (that's next year's projected enrollment total) instead of 115,000 (the actual number of enrollees they currently have on these policies). The table below has been updated accordingly:

Here's the screen shot showing my error. This is the first time I've seen a carrier filing break out exactly how many people they assume are going to enroll in specific policies next year vs. this year...and notice that they're openly expecting more current lightly-subsidized Silver enrollees to actually move to off-exchange Silver plans via the #SilverSwitcharoo phenomenon:

As for the reasons for the requested rate hikes, let's let the carriers speak for themselves...

Asuris:

BridgeSpan:

Coordinated Care:

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington:

...and so on. You get the idea. The Urban Institute analysis projected that the one-two sabotage combination of individual mandate repeal + #ShortAssPlans are responsible for a combined 21% average premium increase in Washington State. If accurate, that suggests that absent these factors, premiums would actually drop by about 2% next year.