END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (42 states)

Time: D H M S

OE5

After being way off in my initial HC.gov projections the first and second weeks of the 2018 Open Enrollment Period, I recalibrated and was dead on target for Weeks 3 and 4: As of November 25th, just shy of 2.8 million people had selected Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) through the federal exchange.

As I had predicted, there were a bunch of eye-roll-inducing headlines about how enrollments had dropped off a cliff, etc etc, which completely ignored the fact that it was Thanksgiving week, and that a 35%+ drop-off is typical for the holiday weekend. Whatever.

For the post-Thanksgiving week, however, ACA enrollments typically roar back to life, and this year was no exception...although not by nearly as much as I was hoping:

 

I've written a LOT about Silver Loading, the Silver Switcharoo and the bizzare policy pricing many people will find on the ACA exchanges this year due to two actions:

  • First, Donald Trump officially pulling the plug on CSR reimbursement payments to insurance carriers, and...
  • Second, the response to the CSR cut-off by some very clever state insurance departments, ACA exchange boards and individual market insurance carriers.

The gist of Silver Loading/Silver Switcharoo is that across roughly 40 states, subsidized enrolles may find themselves eligible for dirt-cheap (or even zero-premium) Bronze plans...as well as bargain-priced Gold plans which may cost the same or even less than Silver plans.

The last update out of Maryland had 2018 QHP selections breaking 130K total, with new enrollments up 10% and overall enrollments up 3% year over year through Nov. 17th.

Just now, the MD Health Connection posted an update through this week:

Incoming exec director Michele Eberle of @MarylandConnect urges Marylanders to enroll in health coverage with 10 days left. New enrollments up 14% this year. Mobile app visitors up 140% Overall enrollment up 4% Keep it going! pic.twitter.com/75g2qu5PbC

— MD Health Connection (@MarylandConnect) December 5, 2017

I'm assuming these stats are as of December 4th. Last year MD's official QHP selection tally as of December 3rd was around 129,000; if they're 4% ahead of that as of the same date, that means they should have a little over 134,000 to date this year.

Thanks to "Andy the Dog" for the heads up:

Kelly said about 90,000 people were insured through the exchange at any given time this year. (People could enroll or cancel during the year.) And at the end of last year’s open-enrollment period, more than 100,000 were signed up for coverage.

This month, the exchange has renewed 86,300 customers for 2018 plans. The new sign-ups are much lower, in the hundreds. Kelly said total enrollment so far — 2017 customers being rolled over into 2018, plus the new sign-ups — exceeds 87,000.

“That number has grown every day in the last several weeks,” he said.

Less than 10 percent of people who were auto-renewed for 2018 plans have canceled so far, he said. More people could cancel by the deadline, though; last year, almost 30 percent of auto-renewed plans had been canceled when the dust settled on the enrollment period.

Access Health CT has just posted their full November enrollment numbers: 90,428 QHP selections thru 11/30, of which 13% are new enrollees.

For comparison, last year they enrolled 111.5K people, so they've hit 81% of their 2017 number and 78% of their 2016 number.

They've also done something interesting: They're listing the 11,055 current enrollees who haven't actively re-enrolled as of yet. If every one of them did so (they won't), that would bring the grand total up to 101.4K.

This just in...

Connect for Health Colorado® Reports Increase in 2018 Medical Plan Selections

DENVER —  More than 43,000 Coloradans selected healthcare coverage for 2018 through the state health insurance Marketplace in November, a rate 29 percent ahead of signups one year ago, according to new data released today by Connect for Health Colorado®.

“With only two weeks left to enroll for January coverage, I am pleased with the pace of plan selections,” said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson.  “I know people are busy this time of year but I encourage everyone who buys their own health insurance to check to see if they qualify for financial assistance, review the available plans, and complete an enrollment before the last-minute rush. Many will be surprised that they qualify for financial help.”

...well, not a whole lot, to be perfectly frank.

Vermont has been pretty much on radio silence for the past two years. They issued fairly regular enrollment data reports in 2014 and 2015, but last year there was nary a peep; the only mid-season enrollment report with Vermont data was the official one released by CMS in early January.

I was, therefore, pretty happy to see a link to their "2018 Open Enrollment Update" posted earlier this afternoon.

Unfortunately...

Open Enrollment Countdown: Just 15 Days Left to Sign up for 2018 Health Coverage

Customer Support Center to Open Next Two Saturdays (9am-1pm)

Nothing official yet, but New York-based Politico healthcare reporter Dan Goldberg just tweeted this out:

@charles_gaba new ny numbers out. 46,000 new enrollees. 13 percent ahead of last year’s pace. 31,500 in essential plan. Numbers through end of November

— Dan Goldberg (@DanCGoldberg) November 30, 2017

Unfortunately, a lot of the state-based exchanges have an annoying habit of not posting renewal numbers until after the enrollment period is over (including the biggest one, California), but this is still helpful. Also handy to have the early BHP enrollment numbers.

UPDATE: Whoops...the official NY State of Health press release is out, and it looks like I misunderstood Goldberg's tweet; it's 46,000 new enrollees total including QHPs and BHPs combined:

The following letter was sent to Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire a few days ago:

Dear Representative Shea-Porter:

Thank you for your letter regarding funding for the Navigator program. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires each Health Insurance Exchange (whether Federally-facilitated or state-based) to have a Navigator program to, among other things, help facilitate enrollment of individuals in qualified health plans (QHPs) through the Exchange.

She goes on to rehash everything we already knew: That CMS slashed outreach grant funding by tens of millions of dollars. She obviously tries to make it sound like a reasonable, well thought-out process, even though, as I reported exclusively back in September, the decision was actually slapped together at the last minute, literally a few hours before the formal grant notices were actually sent out.

However, that's not what I'm focusing on here; this is:

This just in from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange...

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that nearly 18,000 new customers have used Washington Healthplanfinder to select 2018 health coverage through the first four weeks of open enrollment. The number of new customers who have signed up since Nov. 1 represents a 43 percent increase over the same period last year.

In addition to the 4,500 new sign-ups received on average each week, Washington Healthplanfinder has experienced an 18 percent increase in visits to the website, with more than 423,000 visitors reviewing their coverage options on www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

Additional data revealing increased consumer interest during open enrollment:

As I noted earlier, the price Maine GOP Senator Susan Collins appears to be demanding is passage of the Alexander-Murray stabilization bill and passage of her own Collins-Nelson reinsurance bill. I addressed Alexander-Murray in my last post, but let's take a look at Collins-Nelson:

Collins' bill with Nelson would set aside $4.5 billion over two years to help states establish reinsurance programs. Reinsurance directly compensates insurance carriers for their most expensive customers.

To the best of my knowledge, that's...pretty much all it does: $2.25 billion per year for two years, and then...that's it. If there's more to the bill than that, I'll revise this post, but in the meantime, that seems to be the whole bill.

All eyes are on the Godawful Tax Scam Bill this week, which once again lies mostly in the hands of a handful of Republican Senators including the usual suspects like John McCain, Lisa Murkwoski and Susan Collins.

McCain's biggest beef this year has been about "following regular order"; it's the reason he shot down the GOP's #BCRAP bill last summer. Of coruse, current tax bill most certainly isn't following regular order either. Will he stick to his guns on the issue or cave under pressure this time? Who knows?

Murkowski was a healthcare hero last summer as well...but she may have been bought off by the addition of a "Polar Payoff" in the form of the bill allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). This is the only reason I can think of that would explain her rather disingenously defensive op-ed piece in the Anchorage Daily News last week.

Me, four days ago:

FWIW: By midnight tonight, I’m estimating ~2.8M QHP selections via HC.gov (4.6M nationally). My prior estimate forgot to account for Thanksgiving weekend: https://t.co/NoZrEE3eTK #ACA #Obamacare #GetCovered pic.twitter.com/mB1wKcWwQP

— Charles GetCoveredBa (@charles_gaba) November 25, 2017

CMS, moments ago:

In week four of Open Enrollment for 2018, 504,181 people selected plans using the HealthCare.gov platform. As in past years, enrollment weeks are measured Sunday through Saturday.

A week or so ago, Connect for Health Colorado reported that they'd enrolled 22,650 people in ACA exchange plans as of November 14th, up a full third over last year by the same date. Today they've posted their third week numbers, and while things have started to slow down, they're still running 25% ahead of last year.

Given the whole Silver Load/Silver Switcharoo craziness, I was mildly surprised to see that the ratio between Bronze, Silver and Gold have barely changed year over year, and in fact Silver has inched upward by a few points...until I remembered that Colorado is among the few states which went with the "broad load" model, spreading the additional CSR cost across all metal levels both on and off the exchange. This makes the similar metal level spread more understandable, but it also makes the 25% enrollment increase even more surprising, since subsidized enrollees will pay pretty much the same (no more or less) than this year, but unsubsidized enrollees are seeing their rates shoot up no matter where they go. As you can see below, the average premiums for unsubsidized enrollees ("NFA" = "Non-Financial Assistance) is 36.6% higher this year than last.

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