A glaring deficiency in the report is the failure to attribute any decline in enrollments, either on the federal level or at Covered California, to an improving economy. Unemployment is at record low percentages and more people are working for employers who offer group health plans. Covered California’s own small group plans have seen increased enrollment since its inception in 2014 and their budget report estimates continued enrollment growth.
Health insurance companies are smarter than your average house cat. They have reams of data about health care claims and demographics. They can forecast, with reasonable confidence, that altering some of the member cost-sharing benefits may reduce their final exposure to pay member claims. It has also been suggested that consumers who purchase health insurance off-exchange, paying the full premium rate with no subsidy, may be more judicious in how they use health care services. In other word, off-exchange consumer mays tend to file fewer health care expense claims. This results in lower rates to the consumer.
Finally, some folks are considering just enrolling in Medi-Cal because they are eligible. They have very little or no income to report on their taxes because they are living off of savings, interest, and dividends. Here again, Medi-Cal would be used as a containment strategy to an unexpected accident or illness. Medi-Cal is typically a HMO plan which requires a Primary Care Physician to make referrals to specialists, order tests, or imaging.
A review of health insurance rates in Northern and Southern California shows rates for young adults will increase between 30% to over 40%. Instead of the 6% to 16% increase in rates for adults only, families could experience a 20% increase in health insurance rates in 2018.
What has not been explained was if the increased Silver plan rates were based on existing Silver plan enrollments or projected enrollments. For those individuals and families who receive very little or no APTC the off-exchange Silver 70 plans will be 8.3% to 27% less expensive. People will naturally enroll in off-exchange Silver plans to save money. There will also be people who downgrade their plans from Silver to Bronze to save money, or, enroll in a Gold or Platinum plan for more benefits at an equal or lower cost of a Silver plan through Covered California. Either way, people will exit Covered California Silver plans in 2018. And since only the Covered California Silver plans have the increased rates, will that generate enough money to subsidize those people left in the enhanced Silver plans?
The Petersen has plans with lower deductible amounts than IHC. Petersen also has an optional hazardous sports or activities rider. Optional Hazardous Sports or Activities Rider – Hazardous Sports or Activities are the following list of activities which are considered to be more than a standard risk. This optional rider will provide up to $250,000 for eligible expenses incurred by participation in the following:
If you review the 2018 Covered California rate booklet, which doesn’t actually have any rates in it, you notice that many of the carriers are having modest rate increases. Most of the rate increases are around 10% or less. Some carriers such as Blue Shield, Health Net, and Oscar are dropping rates in some regions. What jumped out at me was Molina which was identified as having rate increases at a minimum of 16% and up to 51% in the regions they offer health plans.
Both DMHC and CDI make their rate review process as transparent as possible to the public. This is not the case for Covered California. The reason Covered California gets to negotiate rates in secret is because the health plans are considered contractors and the rates are considered bids. I learned this after I filed a Public Records Act request asking for the rates submitted to Covered California.
But how does an enrolled individual in a standard Silver 70 plan, who is not eligible for the CSRs, feel about subsidizing lower income plan members? Could the argument be made that some individuals are paying an inflated premium, close to a Gold plan, but only receiving Silver plan level benefits? At a very minimum, the inflated Silver plan rates are a distortion of the health insurance market place. One of the goals of the ACA and the exchanges like Covered California was to bring more transparency and accountability to the health plan selection process for consumers. If the inflated Silver plan rates, along with artificially inflated subsidies, do become a reality, the market place for health insurance will take a step backwards as plan selection becomes more confusing for consumers.
For years I have been at odds over how the San Juan Water District (SJWD) set their daily and metered rates for water in the Granite Bay area. Finally, SJWD is proposing a five-year rate structure that addresses the long term capital improvement needs of the district. The unfortunate 8% and 9% increase in the rates is a reflection of past Board decisions not to implement a stable rate structure for future maintenance, operations, and system upgrades.