END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT (MASSACHUSETTS)

Time: D H M S

OE5

No one has been promoting the Silver Switcharoo option (in states which allow it) louder or more emphatically than I have for the past few weeks.

To summarize (again), this is where someone whose household income is too high for them to qualify for ACA tax credits (400% of the Federal Poverty Line) chooses an ACA-compliant off-exchange Silver plan instead, which is either identical or nearly identical to the same on-exchange policy in every way except that the additional CSR load hasn't been tacked onto it.

Here's a perfect example found by Louise Norris...ironically, this is via Priority Health here in Michigan, which (until today) I thought was a "Silver Load" state, not "Silver Switcharoo". I'll have to do some more research to be sure, but it sounds like at least one MI carrier (Priority) is going full Switch:

1/2/17: I've updated these a bit...

#1: The 2018 Open Enrollment Period is only half as long as usual in most states!

  • In the other 11 states (+DC), the deadline to enroll for 2018 coverage is later...but the final dates range from Dec. 22nd (CT) to as late as Jan. 31 (CA, DC & NY).

UPDATE: As of January 2nd, 2018, there are 7 states where Open Enrollment is still ongoing:

UPDATE: It looks like this issue may be limited to a single carrier in New Mexico; I've changed the headline and graphic accordingly...but it might be an issue in other states as well; if so I may have to change it back again...

Fantastic (if migraine-inducing) scoop by Susannah Luthi of Inside Health Policy (paywall):

Insurers That Filed Wrong Rates Told By CMS They Can't Sell Plans Through Mid-November

An issuer whose final CMS-approved rates don’t account for the loss of cost-sharing reduction payments is being told by the agency that they won’t be able to sell plans until healthcare.gov data is refreshed– even though this would mean the carriers are even more crunched for time to sell their plans during the shortened open enrollment period.

Last week I gave a very rough, back-of-the-envelope projection of perhaps 9.5 - 10.0 million Qualified Health Plan (QHP) selections during the 2018 Open Enrollment Period, which starts tomorrow. As I repeatedly emphasized, this wasn't based on any deep-in-the-weeds statistical analysis, because the one-two punch of the GOP's farcical "repeal/replace" efforts combined with the Trump Administration's "let Obamacare explode!" sabotage efforts have managed to botch things up so badly that I didn't see much point in expending the effort this year. Besides, others, such as Obama Administration Chief Marketing Officer Joshua Peck have already done part of this work for me:

Considering how absolutely obsessed the Trump Administration is about repealing the ACA, this new official report from Trump's Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) seems like a strange way of showing it.

The very first bullet starts off ripping on the 37% average rate hike on benchmark Silver plans...

Benchmark Premiums: The average monthly premium for the second-lowest cost silver plan (SLCSP), also called the benchmark plan, for a 27-year-old increased by 37% from plan year 2017 (PY17) ($300) to PY18 ($411).

Premium Growth: For the first time, annual growth in the average monthly premium available to a 27- year-old for the SLCSP, at 37%, outpaced that of the lowest-cost plan (LCP), at 17%.

Of course, there's pretty obvious reason for that: Trump's cut-off of Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) reimbursement payments. The ASPE report does go into this, but not until Page 6. Meanwhile, it's immediately undermined anyway (at least regarding subsidized enrollees) in the very next bullet:

With the 2018 Open Enrollment Period coming up just 5 days from now, it's time to put this to bed: After 6 months of painstaking research and analysis, I've compiled a comprehensive analysis of the weighted average rate changes for unsubsidized ACA-compliant individual market policies in 2018, including both the on- and off-exchange markets. It's already been confirmed by a different analysis by healthcare consulting firm Avalere Health, which used a completely different methodology to arrive at the exact same conclusion: The national average increase is between 29-30%, ranging from as low as a 22% average premium drop in Alaska (thanks to their successful reinsurance program) to as high as a painful 58% increase in Virginia.

As noted earlier today, I've now managed to plug 48 states (plus DC) into my 2018 Rate Hike Project spreadsheet. This leaves just two states missing: New Hampshire and Texas. I'm still waiting to clarify some things for each, so this analysis could still change, but I really want to wrap this up, so here's what I have for New Hampshire right now:

When I first ran the numbers for New Hampshire's requested 2018 rate increases, it seemed pretty straightforward: 3 carriers on the individual market. 2 listed rate changes assuming CSRs would be paid; one assumed they wouldn't. This gave the following:

Cut 'n dry, right? Guess again: An August press release from the NH Dept. of Insurance stated:

With 43 states accounted for, Open Enrollment itself looming just 6 days from now and HealthCare.Gov's window shopping tool now open for business anyway, there aren't likely to be too many surprises left for my 2018 Rate Hike project. For that matter, healthcare consulting firm Avalere Health just published their own analysis which confirms my own closely: They have the 2018 on exchange average increase at 29.1%, while I currently have the combined on & off-exchange average (for 43 states) at 29.2%.

Still, I don't like loose ends, and those 8 missing states are bugging me, so I still want to fill them in for completeness' sake. The only big state remaining is Texas, but I'm also missing Alabama, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

As regular readers know, I've spent the third consecutive summer/fall painstakingly analyzing both the requested and approved unsubsidized (full-price) rate increases on the individual market for 2018. My track record the prior two years has been pretty good:

Let's suppose that you and your spouse were 39 years old last fall, and you have two young children. None of you smoke, and you live in Oakland County, Michigan. Let us further suppose that you decided to enroll your family in a standard Silver policy via the federal ACA exchange, HealthCare.Gov. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is the biggest carrier in the state, and Blue Care Network is their HMO division, so you decide to go with them.

How much of a tax credit will they receive, and how much would they end up paying for 2017 at different income levels after applying tax credits?

In 2017, the Federal Poverty Line in the 48 contiguous states for a family of four $24,300. Let's plug in some different incomes and see where they fall on the FPL scale:

 

Several of the states operating their own ACA exchanges have already had their 2018 Window Shopping tools up and running for several weeks now, including Covered California, Your Health Idaho and the Maryland Health Connection, so this really shouldn't be that big of a deal, but given the insanity and uncertainty surrounding this years' Open Enrollment Period and especially the fact that HealthCare.Gov is responsible for 39 states (while being operated by the federal government under the thumb of an openly-hostile Trump Administration), it's pretty important news regardless.

In any event, HealthCare.Gov's 2018 Open Enrollment Period Window Shopping tool is now live.

 

On November 10, 2016, at 4:30 in the morning, I was still in a bit of a dazed state trying to absorb the reality that a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic con-artist sexual predator moron was about to become the next President of the United States. We were 9 days into the 2017 Open Enrollment Period, and I realized that there was absolutely no way of knowing what sort of impact the election results might end up having on how many people would sign up for coverage.

My original, pre-OE4 projection was that it would come in anywhere between 13.5 - 14.0 million people, but I quickly realized that I'd have to drastically alter my thinking. How drastically? Well, I actually posted the following to give an idea of how deep into the unknown we were:

A week or so ago, David Anderson, Louise Norris, Andrew Sprung and I co-wrote an article explaining how different states were planning on handling 2018 individual market pricing given the massive uncertainty surrounding ongoing Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) reimbursement payments.

Our timing couldn't have been more fortuitous: Less than 48 hours after we posted the piece, Donald Trump announced that, sure enough, he's finally following through on his threat to pull the plug on CSR payments, effective immediately.

Press release from the North Dakota Insurance Dept,, September 28, 2017:

Medica Leaving North Dakota Individual Health Insurance Exchange in 2018
Post date: Sep 28, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. – Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread today confirmed that the Insurance Department was informed late Wednesday, Sept. 27, that Medica does not intend to sign an agreement with the federal government to offer coverage on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Exchange for their individual health insurance in North Dakota for 2018.

“We have had numerous conversations with Medica over the course of the past few months, and given the uncertainty that currently exists around cost sharing reductions, they are unable to move forward in the Federal Exchange,” Godfread said.

Things were looking pretty dicey for two of Montana's three insurance carriers participating on the individual market the past few days. One of the three, Blue Cross Blue Shield, saw the writing on the wall regarding Cost Sharing Reductions (CSR) likely being cut off and filed a hefty 23% rate hike request with the state insurance department. The other two, however (PacificSource and the Montana Health Co-Op, one of a handful of ACA-created cooperatives stll around, assumed that the CSR payments would still be around next year and only filed single-digit rate increases.

I'm not going to speculate as to the reasons why they both did so when it was patently obvious that having the CSRs cut off was a distinct possibility, although I seem to recall the CEO of the Montana Co-Op said something about their hands being tied since CSR reimbursement payments are legally required, after all. Basically, it sounds like he was genuinely trying to avoid passing on any more additional costs to their enrollees than they had to.

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