Washington State

I don't know if I'm just asleep at the wheel when it comes to healthcare happenings in Washington State lately, but this one caught me by surprise as well:

Today I signed a bill that protects Affordable Care Act health care insurance practices in WA state. This bill assures Washingtonians that regardless of what happens in D.C., we’re protecting your access to care here here at home. #waleg #ACAhttps://t.co/e3g35Fch68

— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) April 17, 2019

From the official press release:

Back in January, 2nd-term Washington Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Jay Inslee jumped fully onboard the Public Option train:

Inslee proposes ‘public option’ health-insurance plan for Washington

The proposal, which Inslee said is the first step toward universal health care, is geared in part to help stabilize the exchange, which has wrestled with double-digit premium increases and attempts by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

...The proposal would have the state Health Care Authority contract with at least one health-insurance carrier to offer qualified health coverage on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, according to a summary of the proposal.

This Just In from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner's office...

Kreidler's bill to protect consumers from surprise billing passes Senate
April 10, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s proposal to end the harmful practice of surprise medical billing passed the Senate today on a vote of 47 to 0. It now goes back to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote before heading to the governor’s desk.

Second Substitute House Bill 1065 (www.leg.wa.gov) prevents consumers from getting a surprise bill when they seek either emergency treatment at an out-of-network emergency room or medical services at an in-network hospital or facility but are treated by an out-of-network provider.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that more than 200,000 people purchased their 2019 health insurance coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online health insurance marketplace, during the most recent open enrollment period held Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 of last year.

Even with the four percent decrease in total number of enrollments reported from February of 2018, the Exchange saw more than 90 percent of those who selected a 2019 health plan during the open enrollment period make their initial premium payment.

A 4% drop may sound bad, but total QHP selections during OE6 were actually down 8.3% year over year (from 243K to 223K), so this is actually an improvement in that sense. 90.5% of those who selected policies are still effectuated as of February this year vs. 86.4% as of February in 2018.

Something is definitely in the water this week, and I believe it's called "Democrats hitting their stride on healthcare reform":

And now, this:

Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday announced proposed legislation for a new “public option” health-care plan under Washington’s health-insurance exchange.

The proposal, which Inslee said is the first step toward universal health care, is geared in part to help stabilize the exchange, which has wrestled with double-digit premium increases and attempts by Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“We are proposing to the state Legislature that we have a public option that is available throughout the state of Washington so that we can increase the ability to move forward on the road to universal health care in the state of Washington,” said the governor, who is considering a run for president in 2020.

Huh. I mentioned this the other day, but apparently it's a bigger thing than I thought:

Limited Time Special Enrollment Period for 2019 Coverage
Posted on: December 17, 2018

Did you hit a snag trying to enroll in 2019 coverage during open enrollment? The Health Benefit Exchange is offering a special enrollment for individuals who were not able to enroll before the end of Open Enrollment.

You still have the chance to enroll in 2019 coverage

In light of this year’s shortened open enrollment period along with other barriers, you still have the chance to enroll in 2019 coverage. If you were unable to select a plan before the close of open enrollment and you would like to enroll in a 2019 plan, contact Customer Support (1-855-923-4633) no later than December 20, 2018! Once you have contacted Customer Support, you will have until December 28, 2018 to select a plan. Plans will still be effective on January 1, 2019.

(sigh) Drat. The state-based exchange enrollment reports keep on rolling, but I'm afraid the streak of outperforming last year's numbers has come to a screeching halt in Washington State:

Washington Healthplanfinder Sign-Ups Surge Past 222,000 In Strong Final Weekend
More than 11,000 plans selected during open enrollment’s closing hours, additional sign-ups expected this week

December 17, 2018

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that a total of 222,636 customers selected a 2019 health plan through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online health insurance marketplace, by last Saturday’s midnight deadline to enroll. The total number of plan selections is only slightly lower than the 242,000 sign-ups posted during the 2018 open enrollment period that stretched one month longer.

A couple of weeks ago I reported that the Washington Health Benefit Exchange had enrolled over 196,000 people in ACA exchange policies as of November 28th, putting them about 3% ahead of last year's tally as of the same date.

Today they issued another unofficial update which pegs their total at "more than 200,000 Washingtonians" (there's no exact number provided):

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is alerting all customers today that less than 72 hours remain before the deadline to sign up in 2019 health and dental coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder. Customers who have not yet selected a plan have until the close of open enrollment at 11:59 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 15 to select their coverage for next year.

A couple of weeks ago I reported that the Washington Health Benefit Exchange reported enrolling a seemingingly astonishing 190,000 people into 2019 policies in just the first 10 days of the 2019 Open Enrollment Period. This is highly misleading, of course, because only a small fraction of these are new enrollees, and a somewhat larger portion are current enrollees actively renewing their policies.

The vast bulk of that 190K are current enrollees who are auto-renewed into 2019 policies by the exchange itself...with the option to then actively go into the system and opt to cancel their renewals if they wish. There's nothing wrong with this, and in fact more and more of the state exchanges seem to be doing it this way as they improve and streamline their software (I've confirmed that Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington State are "front-loading" autorenewals this year, although Maryland hasn't actually reported their data yet).

Last year, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange reported enrolling roughly 4,500 new ACA exchange enrollees in the first 8 days, which was a whopping 53% increase over 2017. This was in addition to what I estimated was roughly 13,000 current enrollees actively renewing their existing policies or switching to a different one, for a total of perhaps 17,500 QHP selections.

This year, the WA exchange hasn't posted any official press release yet, but the Seattle Times claims that they've already enrolled over 190,000 people:

Despite changes to the Affordable Care Act during the past couple of years, local health-insurance officials are optimistic that the state’s health-insurance exchange will flourish in 2019.

Since enrollment for 2019 began Nov. 1, about 190,000 people have signed up for health insurance through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which is about 5 percent more than the same period last year.

OK, this is a pretty minor update, but in the interest of completeness I should post it.

In mid-September, the Washington State insurance commissioner posted the approved 2019 average ACA individual market premium changes for carriers statewide, coming in at 13.8% overall.

The only problem is that the report only included the seven on-exchange ACA market carriers. The four carriers which offer off-exchange policies (which are pretty much identical and are part of the same risk pool, but don't qualify for tax credits) weren't included. They make up roughly 23% of Washington State's total individual market.

Today, just a few days before Open Enrollment begins, the WA Insurance Commissioner posted the complete approved rate change information. The overall average has dropped slightly, to 13.6%:

Eleven insurers approved to sell 74 plans in Washington's 2019 individual market
13.57 percent average rate increase approved

October 29, 2018

 Back in June, Washington State delivered the bad news: They were expecting 2019 ACA-compliant premiums to increase by another 19.1% (due primarily to this year's sabotage of the law by Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans) on top of this year's 36% increase (10 points of which was due specifically to Trump's CSR reimbursement cut-off).

Today, Washington insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler announced the approved 2019 premium changes, and while the news certainly isn't great, it's not quite as bad as expected earlier this summer:

It's been awhile since I last updated my "ACA Protection Spreadsheet", which is an attempt to track a whole mess of bills designed to protect the Affordable Care Act from sabotage at the federal level by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans. My last update was over a month ago, when Hawaii's Governor signed a law which locks in several ACA protections, including:

  • Ensure that young adults can continue to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26
  • Prohibit insurers from using applicants’ gender to set premiums
  • Prohibit insurers from rejecting an application based on an applicant’s medical history, or imposing coverage exclusions based on pre-existing conditions.

Today, however, there were major developments regarding #ShortAssPlan restrictions (and a few other important patient protection bills) in three states: Two positive, one negative.

CALIFORNIA:

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. 

This just in from the Washington State Insurance Commissioner's office...

Eleven health insurers file for 2019 individual market: No bare counties

May 25, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Eleven health insurers filed 88 health plans for Washington state’s individual market yesterday, and all 39 counties will be covered in 2019.

The proposed rate changes are not public until 10 days after the OIC has determined the filings are complete. Release of the proposed rate changes is targeted for June 4. 

“We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing consumers in every county who need coverage will have access to a health plan in 2019,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “Obviously, how much premiums may change and any increases to out-of-pocket costs are still key concerns, but I’m grateful that we can assure people that coverage is available, regardless of where they live.” 

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