More than Half of Uninsured People Eligible for Marketplace Insurance Could Pay Less for Health Plan than Individual Mandate Penalty

Things are not looking up for the uninsured. Pay less and reach out to your health insurance professionals today. Want more facts? Check out this blog article from Kaiser Family Foundation.

new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that more than half (54% or 5.9 million) of the 10.7 million people who are uninsured and eligible to purchase an Affordable Care Act marketplace plan in 2018 could pay less in premiums for health insurance than they would owe as an individual mandate tax penalty for lacking coverage.

Within that 5.8 million, about 4.5 million (42% of the total) could obtain a bronze-level plan at no cost in 2018, after taking income-related premium tax credits into account, the analysis finds.

Most people without insurance who are eligible to buy marketplace coverage qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits to help pay premiums for marketplace plans (8.3 million out of 10.7 million). Among those eligible for premium subsidies, the analysis finds that 70 percent could pay less in premiums than what they’d owe as a tax penalty for lacking coverage, with 54 percent able to purchase a bronze plan at no cost and 16 percent contributing less to their health insurance premium than the tax penalty they owe.

Among the 2.4 million uninsured, marketplace-eligible people who do not qualify for a premium subsidy, 2 percent would be able to pay less for marketplace insurance than they’d owe for their 2018 penalty, the analysis finds.

The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate requires that most people have health coverage or be subject to a tax penalty unless they qualify for certain exemptions. The individual mandate is still in effect, though Congress may consider repealing it as part of tax legislation.

Consumers can compare their estimated 2018 individual mandate penalty with the cost of marketplace insurance in their area with KFF’s new Individual Mandate Penalty Calculator.

The deadline for ACA open enrollment in most states is Dec. 15, 2017.


You can read the original article here.


Kaiser Family Foundation (9 November 2017). "ANALYSIS: More than Half of Uninsured People Eligible for Marketplace Insurance Could Pay Less for Health Plan than Individual Mandate Penalty" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address

The Effects of Ending the Affordable Care Act’s Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments

Controversy has emerged recently over federal payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) related to cost-sharing reductions for low-income enrollees in the ACA’s marketplaces.

The ACA requires insurers to offer plans with reduced patient cost-sharing (e.g., deductibles and copays) to marketplace enrollees with incomes 100-250% of the poverty level. The reduced cost-sharing is only available in silver-level plans, and the premiums are the same as standard silver plans.

To compensate for the added cost to insurers of the reduced cost-sharing, the federal governments makes payments directly to insurance companies. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the cost of these payments at $7 billion in fiscal year 2017, rising to $10 billion in 2018 and $16 billion by 2027.

The U.S. House of Representatives sued the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama Administration, challenging the legality of making the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments without an explicit appropriation. A district court judge has ruled in favor of the House, but the ruling was appealed by the Secretary and the payments were permitted to continue pending the appeal. The case is currently in abeyance, with status reports required every three months, starting May 22, 2017.

If the CSR payments end – either through a court order or through a unilateral decision by the Trump Administration, assuming the payments are not explicitly authorized in an appropriation by Congress – insurers would face significant revenue shortfalls this year and next.

Many insurers might react to the end of subsidy payments by exiting the ACA marketplaces. If insurers choose to remain in the marketplaces, they would need to raise premiums to offset the loss of the payments.

We have previously estimated that insurers would need to raise silver premiums by about 19% on average to compensate for the loss of CSR payments. Our assumption is that insurers would only increase silver premiums (if allowed to do so by regulators), since those are the only plans where cost-sharing reductions are available. The premium increases would be higher in states that have not expanded Medicaid (and lower in states that have), since there are a large number of marketplace enrollees in those states with incomes 100-138% of poverty who qualify for the largest cost-sharing reductions.

There would be a significant amount of uncertainty for insurers in setting premiums to offset the cost of cost-sharing reductions. For example, they would need to anticipate what share of enrollees in silver plans would be receiving reduced cost-sharing and at what level. Under a worst case scenario – where only people eligible for sharing reductions enrolled in silver plans – the required premium increase would be higher than 19%, and many insurers might request bigger rate hikes.

Figure 1: How much silver premiums would have to rise to compensate for loss of cost-sharing reduction payments

While the federal government would save money by not making CSR payments, it would face increased costs for tax credits that subsidize premiums for marketplace enrollees with incomes 100-400% of the poverty level.

The ACA’s premium tax credits are based on the premium for a benchmark plan in each area: the second-lowest-cost silver plan in the marketplace. The tax credit is calculated as the difference between the premium for that benchmark plan and a premium cap calculated as a percent of the enrollee’s household income (ranging from 2.04% at 100% of the poverty level to 9.69% at 400% of the poverty in 2017).

Any systematic increase in premiums for silver marketplace plans (including the benchmark plan) would increase the size of premium tax credits. The increased tax credits would completely cover the increased premium for subsidized enrollees covered through the benchmark plan and cushion the effect for enrollees signed up for more expensive silver plans. Enrollees who apply their tax credits to other tiers of plans (i.e., bronze, gold, and platinum) would also receive increased premium tax credits even though they do not qualify for reduced cost-sharing and the underlying premiums in their plans might not increase at all.

We estimate that the increased cost to the federal government of higher premium tax credits would actually be 23% more than the savings from eliminating cost-sharing reduction payments. For fiscal year 2018, that would result in a net increase in federal costs of $2.3 billion. Extrapolating to the 10-year budget window (2018-2027) using CBO’s projection of CSR payments, the federal government would end up spending $31 billion more if the payments end.

This assumes that insurers would be willing to stay in the market if CSR payments are eliminated.

Figure 2: How eliminating ACA cost-sharing reduction payments increases federal costs (2018)


We previously estimated that the increase in silver premiums necessary to offset the elimination of CSR payments would be 19%.

To estimate the average increase in premium tax credits per enrollee, we applied that premium increase to the average premium for the second-lowest-cost silver plan in 2017. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that the average monthly premium for the lowest-cost silver plan in 2017 is $433. Our analysis of premium data shows that the second-lowest-cost silver plan has a premium 4% higher than average than the lowest-cost silver plan.

We applied our estimate of the average premium tax credit increase to the estimated total number of people receiving tax credits in 2017. This is based on the 10.1 million people who selected a plan during open enrollment and qualified for a tax credit, reduced by about 17% to reflect the difference between reported plan selections in 2016 and effectuated enrollment in June of 2016.

We believe the resulting 23% increase in federal costs is an underestimate. To the extent some people not receiving cost-sharing reductions migrate out of silver plans, the required premium increase to offset the loss of CSR payments would be higher. Selective exits by insurers (e.g., among those offering lower cost plans) could also drive benchmark premiums higher. In addition, higher silver premiums would somewhat increase the number of people receiving tax credits because currently some younger/higher-income people with incomes under 400% of the poverty level receive a tax credit of zero because their premium cap is lower than the premium for the second-lowest-cost silver plan. We have not accounted for any of these factors.

Our analysis produces results similar to recent estimates for California by Covered California and a January 2016 analysis from the Urban Institute.

An Early Look at 2018 Premium Changes and Insurer Participation on ACA Exchanges

Each year insurers submit filings to state regulators detailing their plans to participate on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces (also called exchanges). These filings include information on the premiums insurers plan to charge in the coming year and which areas they plan to serve. Each state or the federal government reviews premiums to ensure they are accurate and justifiable before the rate goes into effect, though regulators have varying types of authority and states make varying amounts of information public.

In this analysis, we look at preliminary premiums and insurer participation in the 20 states and the District of Columbia where publicly available rate filings include enough detail to be able to show the premium for a specific enrollee. As in previous years, we focus on the second-lowest cost silver plan in the major city in each state. This plan serves as the benchmark for premium tax credits. Enrollees must also enroll in a silver plan to obtain reduced cost sharing tied to their incomes. About 71% of marketplace enrollees are in silver plans this year.

States are still reviewing premiums and participation, so the data in this report are preliminary and could very well change. Rates and participation are not locked in until late summer or early fall (insurers must sign an annual contract by September 27 in states using

Insurers in this market face new uncertainty in the current political environment and in some cases have factored this into their premium increases for the coming year. Specifically, insurers have been unsure whether the individual mandate (which brings down premiums by compelling healthy people to buy coverage) will be repealed by Congress or to what degree it will be enforced by the Trump Administration. Additionally, insurers in this market do not know whether the Trump Administration will continue to make payments to compensate insurers for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), which are the subject of a lawsuit, or whether Congress will appropriate these funds. (More on these subsidies can be found here).

The vast majority of insurers included in this analysis cite uncertainty surrounding the individual mandate and/or cost sharing subsidies as a factor in their 2018 rates filings. Some insurers explicitly factor this uncertainty into their initial premium requests, while other companies say if they do not receive more clarity or if cost-sharing payments stop, they plan to either refile with higher premiums or withdraw from the market. We include a table in this analysis highlighting examples of companies that have factored this uncertainty into their initial premium increases and specified the amount by which the uncertainty is increasing rates.

Changes in the Second-Lowest Cost Silver Premium

The second-lowest silver plan is one of the most popular plan choices on the marketplace and is also the benchmark that is used to determine the amount of financial assistance individuals and families receive. The table below shows these premiums for a major city in each state with available data. (Our analyses from 201720162015, and 2014 examined changes in premiums and participation in these states and major cities since the exchange markets opened nearly four years ago.)

Across these 21 major cities, based on preliminary 2018 rate filings, the second-lowest silver premium for a 40-year-old non-smoker will range from $244 in Detroit, MI to $631 in Wilmington, DE, before accounting for the tax credit that most enrollees in this market receive.

Of these major cities, the steepest proposed increases in the unsubsidized second-lowest silver plan are in Wilmington, DE (up 49% from $423 to $631 per month for a 40-year-old non-smoker), Albuquerque, NM (up 34% from $258 to $346), and Richmond, VA (up 33% from $296 to $394). Meanwhile, unsubsidized premiums for the second-lowest silver premiums will decrease in Providence, RI (down -5% from $261 to $248 for a 40-year-old non-smoker) and remain essentially unchanged in Burlington, VT ($492 to $491).

As discussed in more detail below, this year’s preliminary rate requests are subject to much more uncertainty than in past years. An additional factor driving rates this year is the return of the ACA’s health insurance tax, which adds an estimated 2 to 3 percentage points to premiums.

Most enrollees in the marketplaces (84%) receive a tax credit to lower their premium and these enrollees will be protected from premium increases, though they may need to switch plans in order to take full advantage of the tax credit. The premium tax credit caps how much a person or family must spend on the benchmark plan in their area at a certain percentage of their income. For this reason, in 2017, a single adult making $30,000 per year would pay about $207 per month for the second-lowest-silver plan, regardless of the sticker price (unless their unsubsidized premium was less than $207 per month). If this person enrolls in the second lowest-cost silver plan is in 2018 as well, he or she will pay slightly less (the after-tax credit payment for a similar person in 2018 will be $201 per month, or a decrease of 2.9%). Enrollees can use their tax credits in any marketplace plan. So, because tax credits rise with the increase in benchmark premiums, enrollees are cushioned from the effect of premium hikes.

Table 1: Monthly Silver Premiums and Financial Assistance for a 40 Year Old Non-Smoker Making $30,000 / Year
State  Major City 2nd Lowest Cost Silver
Before Tax Credit
2nd Lowest Cost Silver
After Tax Credit
Amount of Premium Tax Credit
2017 2018 % Change
from 2017
2017 2018 % Change
from 2017
2017 2018 % Change
from 2017
California* Los Angeles $258 $289 12% $207 $201 -3% $51 $88 71%
Colorado Denver $313 $352 12% $207 $201 -3% $106 $150 42%
Connecticut Hartford $369 $417 13% $207 $201 -3% $162 $216 33%
DC Washington $298 $324 9% $207 $201 -3% $91 $122 35%
Delaware Wilmington $423 $631 49% $207 $201 -3% $216 $430 99%
Georgia Atlanta $286 $308 7% $207 $201 -3% $79 $106 34%
Idaho Boise $348 $442 27% $207 $201 -3% $141 $241 70%
Indiana Indianapolis $286 $337 18% $207 $201 -3% $79 $135 72%
Maine Portland $341 $397 17% $207 $201 -3% $134 $196 46%
Maryland Baltimore $313 $392 25% $207 $201 -3% $106 $191 81%
Michigan* Detroit $237 $244 3% $207 $201 -3% $29 $42 44%
Minnesota** Minneapolis $366 $383 5% $207 $201 -3% $159 $181 14%
New Mexico Albuquerque $258 $346 34% $207 $201 -3% $51 $144 183%
New York*** New York City $456 $504 10% $207 $201 -3% $249 $303 21%
Oregon Portland $312 $350 12% $207 $201 -3% $105 $149 42%
Pennsylvania Philadelphia $418 $515 23% $207 $201 -3% $211 $313 49%
Rhode Island Providence $261 $248 -5% $207 $201 -3% $54 $47 -13%
Tennessee Nashville $419 $507 21% $207 $201 -3% $212 $306 44%
Vermont Burlington $492 $491 0% $207 $201 -3% $285 $289 2%
Virginia Richmond $296 $394 33% $207 $201 -3% $89 $193 117%
Washington Seattle $238 $306 29% $207 $201 -3% $31 $105 239%
NOTES: *The 2018 premiums for MI and CA reflect the assumption that CSR payments will continue. **The 2018 premium for MN assumes no reinsurance. ***Empire has filed to offer on the individual market in New York in 2018 but has not made its rates public.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from and insurer rate filings to state regulators.

Looking back to 2014, when changes to the individual insurance market under the ACA first took effect, reveals a wide range of premium changes. In many of these cities, average annual premium growth over the 2014-2018 period has been modest, and in two cites (Indianapolis and Providence), benchmark premiums have actually decreased. In other cities, premiums have risen rapidly over the period, though in some cases this rapid growth was because premiums were initially quite low (e.g., in Nashville and Minneapolis).

Table 2: Monthly Benchmark Silver Premiums
for a 40 Year Old Non-Smoker, 2014-2018
State Major City 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Average Annual % Change from 2014 to 2018 Average Annual % Change After Tax Credit, $30K Income
California Los Angeles $255 $257 $245 $258 $289 3% -1%
Colorado Denver $250 $211 $278 $313 $352 9%  -1%
Connecticut Hartford $328 $312 $318 $369 $417 6%  -1%
DC Washington $242 $242 $244 $298 $324 8%  -1%
Delaware Wilmington $289 $301 $356 $423 $631 22%  -1%
Georgia Atlanta $250 $255 $254 $286 $308 5%  -1%
Idaho Boise $231 $210 $273 $348 $442 18%  -1%
Indiana Indianapolis $341 $329 $298 $286 $337 0%  -1%
Maine Portland $295 $282 $288 $341 $397 8%  -1%
Maryland Baltimore $228 $235 $249 $313 $392 15%  -1%
Michigan* Detroit $224 $230 $226 $237 $244 2%  -1%
Minnesota** Minneapolis $162 $183 $235 $366 $383 24%  6%
New Mexico Albuquerque $194 $171 $186 $258 $346 16%  1%
New York*** New York City $365 $372 $369 $456 $504 8%  -1%
Oregon Portland $213 $213 $261 $312 $350 13%  -1%
Pennsylvania Philadelphia $300 $268 $276 $418 $515 14%  -1%
Rhode Island Providence $293 $260 $263 $261 $248 -4%  -1%
Tennessee Nashville $188 $203 $281 $419 $507 28%  2%
Vermont Burlington $413 $436 $468 $492 $491 4%  -1%
Virginia Richmond $253 $260 $276 $296 $394 12%  -1%
Washington Seattle $281 $254 $227 $238 $306 2% -1%
NOTES: *The 2018 premiums for MI and CA reflect the assumption that CSR payments will continue. **The 2018 premium for MN assumes no reinsurance. ***Empire has filed to offer on the individual market in New York in 2018 but has not made its rates public.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from and insurer rate filings to state regulators.

Changes in Insurer Participation

Across these 20 states and DC, an average of 4.6 insurers have indicated they intend to participate in 2018, compared to an average of 5.1 insurers per state in 2017, 6.2 in 2016, 6.7 in 2015, and 5.7 in 2014. In states using, insurers have until September 27 to sign final contracts to participate in 2018. Insurers often do not serve an entire state, so the number of choices available to consumers in a particular area will typically be less than these figures.

Table 3: Total Number of Insurers by State, 2014 – 2018
State Total Number of Issuers in the Marketplace
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 (Preliminary)
California 11 10 12 11 11
Colorado 10 10 8 7 7
Connecticut 3 4 4 2 2
DC 3 3 2 2 2
Delaware 2 2 2 2 1 (Aetna exiting)
Georgia 5 9 8 5 4 (Humana exiting)
Idaho 4 5 5 5 4 (Cambia exiting)
Indiana 4 8 7 4 2 (Anthem and MDwise exiting)
Maine 2 3 3 3 3
Maryland 4 5 5 3 3 (Cigna exiting, Evergreen1 filed to reenter)
Michigan 9 13 11 9 8 (Humana exiting)
Minnesota 5 4 4 4 4
New Mexico 4 5 4 4 4
New York 16 16 15 14 14
Oregon 11 10 10 6 5 (Atrio exiting)
Pennsylvania 7 8 7 5 5
Rhode Island 2 3 3 2 2
Tennessee 4 5 4 3 3 (Humana exiting, Oscar entering)
Vermont 2 2 2 2 2
Virginia 5 6 7 8 6 (UnitedHealthcare and Aetna exiting)
Washington 7 9 8 6 5 (Community Health Plan of WA exiting)
Average (20 states + DC) 5.7 6.7 6.2 5.1 4.6
NOTES: Insurers are grouped by parent company or group affiliation, which we obtained from HHS Medical Loss Ratio public use files and supplemented with additional research.
1The number of preliminary 2018 insurers in Maryland includes Evergreen, which submitted a filing but has been placed in receivership.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from and insurer rate filings to state regulators.

Uncertainty Surrounding ACA Provisions

Insurers in the individual market must submit filings with their premiums and service areas to states and/or the federal government for review well in advance of these rates going into effect. States vary in their deadlines and processes, but generally, insurers were required to submit their initial rate requests in May or June of 2017 for products that go into effect in January 2018. Once insurers set their premiums for 2018 and sign final contacts at the end of September, those premiums are locked in for the entire calendar year and insurers do not have an opportunity to revise their rates or service areas until the following year.

Meanwhile, over the course of this summer, the debate in Congress over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has carried on as insurers set their rates for next year. Both the House and Senate bills included provisions that would have made significant changes to the law effective in 2018 or even retroactively, including repeal of the individual mandate penalty. Additionally, the Trump administration has sent mixed signals over whether it would continue to enforce the individual mandate or make payments to insurers to reimburse them for the cost of providing legally required cost-sharing assistance to low-income enrollees.

Because this policy uncertainty is far outside the norm, insurers are making varying assumptions about how this uncertainty will play out and affect premiums. Some states have attempted to standardize the process by requesting rate submissions under multiple scenarios, while other states appear to have left the decision up to each individual company. There is no standard place in the filings where insurers across all states can explain this type of assumption, and some states do not post complete filings to allow the public to examine which assumptions insurers are making.

In the 20 states and DC with detailed rate filings included in the previous sections of this analysis, the vast majority of insurers cite policy uncertainty in their rate filings. Some insurers make an explicit assumption about the individual mandate not being enforced or cost-sharing subsidies not being paid and specify how much each assumption contributes to the overall rate increase. Other insurers state that if they do not get clarity by the time final rates must be submitted – which has now been delayed to September 5 for the federal marketplace – they may either increase their premiums further or withdraw from the market.

Table 4 highlights examples of insurers that have explicitly factored into their premiums an assumption that either the individual mandate will not be enforced or cost-sharing subsidy payments will not be made and have specified the degree to which that assumption is influencing their initial rate request. As mentioned above, the vast majority of companies in states with detailed rate filings have included some language around the uncertainty, so it is likely that more companies will revise their premiums to reflect uncertainty in the absence of clear answers from Congress or the Administration.

Insurers assuming the individual mandate will not be enforced have factored in to their rate increases an additional 1.2% to 20%. Those assuming cost-sharing subsidy payments will not continue and factoring this into their initial rate requests have applied an additional rate increase ranging from 2% to 23%. Because cost-sharing reductions are only available in silver plans, insurers may seek to raise premiums just in those plans if the payments end. We estimate that silver premiums would have to increase by 19% on average to compensate for the loss of CSR payments, with the amount varying substantially by state.

Several insurers assumed in their initial rate filing that payment of the cost-sharing subsidies would continue, but indicated the degree to which rates would increase if they are discontinued. These insurers are not included in the Table 4. If CSR payments end or there is continued uncertainty, these insurers say they would raise their rates an additional 3% to 10% beyond their initial request – or ranging from 9% to 38% in cases when the rate increases would only apply to silver plans. Some states have instructed insurers to submit two sets of rates to account for the possibility of discontinued cost-sharing subsidies. In California, for example, a surcharge would be added to silver plans on the exchange, increasing proposed rates an additional 12.4% on average across all 11 carriers, ranging from 8% to 27%.

Table 4: Examples of Preliminary Insurer Assumptions Regarding Individual Mandate Enforcement and
Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) Payments
State Insurer Average Rate Increase  Requested Individual Mandate Assumption CSR Payments Assumption Requested Rate Increase Due to Mandate or CSR Uncertainty
CT ConnectiCare 17.5% Weakly enforced1 Not specified Mandate: 2.4%
DE Highmark BCBSD 33.6% Not enforced Not paid Mandate and CSR: 12.8% combined impact
GA Alliant Health Plans 34.5% Not enforced Not paid Mandate: 5.0%
CSR: Unspecified
ID Mountain Health CO-OP 25.0% Not specified Not paid CSR: 17.0%
ID PacificSource Health Plans 45.6% Not specified Not paid CSR: 23.2%
ID SelectHealth 45.0% Not specified Not paid CSR: 20.0%
MD CareFirst BlueChoice 45.6% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
ME Harvard PilgrimHealth Care 39.7% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 15.9%
MI BCBS of MI 26.9% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid (two rate submissions) Mandate: 5.0%
MI Blue Care Network of MI 13.8% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid (two rate submissions) Mandate: 5.0%
MI Molina Healthcare of MI 19.3% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid (two rate submissions) Mandate: 9.5%
NM CHRISTUS Health Plan 49.2% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 9.0%, combined impact of individual mandate non-enforcement and reduced advertising and outreach
NM Molina Healthcare of NM 21.2% Weakly enforced Paid Mandate: 11.0%
NM New Mexico Health Connections 32.8% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
OR* BridgeSpan 17.2% Weakly enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 11.0%
OR* Moda Health 13.1% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 1.2%
OR* Providence Health Plan 20.7% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 9.7%, largely due to individual mandate non-enforcement
TN BCBS of TN 21.4% Not enforced Not paid Mandate: 7.0%
CSR:  14.0%
TN Cigna 42.1% Weakly enforced Not paid CSR: 14.1%
TN Oscar Insurance  NA (New to state) Not enforced Not paid Mandate: 0%, despite non-enforcement
CSR: 17.0%, applied only to silver plans
VA CareFirst BlueChoice 21.5% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
VA CareFirst GHMSI 54.3% Not enforced Potentially not paid Mandate: 20.0%
WA LifeWise Health Plan of Washington 21.6% Weakly enforced Not paid Mandate: 5.2%
CSR: 2.3%
WA Premera Blue Cross 27.7% Weakly enforced Not paid Mandate: 4.0%
CSR: 3.1%
WA Molina Healthcare of WA 38.5% Weakly enforced Paid Mandate: 5.4%
NOTES: The CSR assumption “Potentially not paid” refers to insurers that filed initial rates assuming CSR payments are made and indicated that uncertainty over CSR funding would change their initial rate requests. In Michigan, insurers were instructed to submit a second set of filings showing rate increases without CSR payments; the rates shown above assume continued CSR payments. *The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation reviewed insurer filings and advised adjustment of the impact of individual mandate uncertainty to between 2.4% and 5.1%. Although rates have since been finalized, the increases shown here are based on initial insurer requests. 1Connecticare assumes a public perception that the mandate will not be enforced.
SOURCE:  Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of premium data from and insurer rate filings to state regulators.


A number of insurers have requested double-digit premium increases for 2018. Based on initial filings, the change in benchmark silver premiums will likely range from -5% to 49% across these 21 major cities. These rates are still being reviewed by regulators and may change.

In the past, requested premiums have been similar, if not equal to, the rates insurers ultimately charge. This year, because of the uncertainty insurers face over whether the individual mandate will be enforced or cost-sharing subsidy payments will be made, some companies have included an additional rate increase in their initial rate requests, while other companies have said they may revise their premiums late in the process. It is therefore quite possible that the requested rates in this analysis will change between now and open enrollment.

Insurers attempting to price their plans and determine which states and counties they will service next year face a great deal of uncertainty. They must soon sign contracts locking in their premiums for the entire year of 2018, yet Congress or the Administration could make significant changes in the coming months to the law – or its implementation – that could lead to significant losses if companies have not appropriately priced for these changes. Insurers vary in the assumptions they make regarding the individual mandate and cost-sharing subsidies and the degree to which they are factoring this uncertainty into their rate requests.

Because most enrollees on the exchange receive subsidies, they will generally be protected from premium increases. Ultimately, most of the burden of higher premiums on exchanges falls on taxpayers. Middle and upper-middle income people purchasing their own coverage off-exchange, however, are not protected by subsidies and will pay the full premium increase, switch to a lower level plan, or drop their coverage. Although the individual market on average has been stabilizing, the concern remains that another year of steep premium increases could cause healthy people (particularly those buying off-exchange) to drop their coverage, potentially leading to further rate hikes or insurer exits.


Data were collected from health insurer rate filing submitted to state regulators. These submissions are publicly available for the states we analyzed. Most rate information is available in the form of a SERFF filing (System for Electronic Rate and Form Filing) that includes a base rate and other factors that build up to an individual rate. In states where filings were unavailable, we gathered data from tables released by state insurance departments. Premium data are current as of August 7, 2017; however, filings in most states are still preliminary and will likely change before open enrollment. All premiums in this analysis are at the rating area level, and some plans may not be available in all cities or counties within the rating area. Rating areas are typically groups of neighboring counties, so a major city in the area was chosen for identification purposes.

ACA lawsuit could have implications beyond health care

Originally posted by Mike Nesper on November 24, 2014 on

Employers should continue preparations to comply with the Affordable Care Act despite House Republicans’ recent lawsuit against President Obama. The lawsuit, announced Friday, challenges the lawfulness of subsidies for lower-income individuals and Obama’s postponement of the employer mandate.

The lawsuit won’t have any short-term effects on the ACA, says Benefit Advisors Network Executive Director Perry Braun. “I would recommend not delaying any implementation plans and to move forward,” he says.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on ACA subsidies in June — the high court agreed Nov. 7 to hear an appeal by four Virginians who are attempting to block those tax credits in 36 states. “Depending on the ruling and subsequent appeals, it could take until summer for this to be resolved,” Braun says.

The government will pay $175 billion to insurance companies over the next 10 years to help individuals who earn a yearly salary between $11,670 and $29,175 pay for health insurance. “If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage — but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere,” according to a Friday New York Times article.

The latest ACA-related lawsuit could have impacts beyond health care, Braun says. “The lawsuit is part of a potentially larger story, which is to have the judicial branch confirm what authority the president of United States has in changing or amending laws and what is the role of Congress,” he says. “The separation of powers is, in my opinion, the story here.”

It’s likely attempts to alter the health care law won’t be limited to the court room. In less than six weeks, Republicans will control both houses of Congress and top broker organizations expect another vote to repeal the ACA, however, they say, it’s more of a symbolic gesture than anything else. (So far, there have been 54 votes to either repeal or change the ACA).

Alden Bianchi, practice group leader of Mintz Levin’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice, says last week’s lawsuit is along the same line.There is no substance here,” he says. “This is, as best I can tell, political. I would guess that the intention is to keep the ACA alive as a campaign issue going into 2016.”

Obamacare Challengers Eye Supreme Court Date

Source: - Originally posted by Kimberly Atkins of the Boston Herald.

Aug. 03--The legal battle over Obamacare federal subsidies could land before the nation's top court as soon as next year after challengers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.

If the high court grants the request and ultimately rules that the Obama administration lacked authority under the law to authorize subsidies for individuals who purchase health care through the federal exchange rather than state-created exchanges, it would gut a crucial source of funding for the law and severely threaten its viability.

The Supreme Court petition, filed late Thursday, comes just more than a week after federal appellate courts in Virginia and Washington, D.C., issued conflicting opinions as to whether the text of the law, which allows individuals to qualify for subsidies if they purchase insurance on exchanges "established by the state," applies to those in the 36 states that either refused to set up an exchange or for some other reason require residents to go to the federal exchange to enroll.

The Virginia plaintiffs, who claim that they would have qualified for the unaffordability exemption from the law requiring them to purchase health care but for the existence of the federal exchange subsidy, went directly to the Supreme Court instead of asking a full panel of the Virginia federal appellate court to rehear that case "because it's important to get a resolution as soon as possible," said Sam Kazman, general counsel at the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, which coordinated and funded the challenges to the federal subsidy.

Kazman said the case, one of several legal challenges to various provisions of the law that was largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, was legal and not political.

"Once you get agencies going beyond the implementation of the law to actually rewriting it, one, it spells trouble and two, it's unconstitutional," Kazman said.

The Justice Department declined Friday to seek immediate Supreme Court review of the D.C. federal court that struck down the administration's interpretation of the law the same day the Virginia court upheld it. Instead, it asked a full panel of the D.C. Circuit to review the three-judge ruling.

Appeals court nixes subsidies for HHS exchange users

Originally posted July 22, 2014 by Allison Bell on

A three-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision that could block efforts to expand access to private health coverage in states that decline to set up state-based insurance exchanges.

The judges ruled 2-1 in Jacqueline Halbig et al. vs. Sylvia Mathews Burwell et al. (Case Number 14-5018) that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has no authority under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to provide premium tax credit subsidies for users of the PPACA public exchanges run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The subsidies have helped cut the amount QHP buyers pay out-of-pocket for premiums to an average of less than $50 per month.

PPACA created a premium tax credit subsidy for people who buy qualified health plan (QHP) coverage through the exchanges by adding Section 36B to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

PPACA lets HHS set up public exchanges in states that decline to set up their own exchanges. IRC Section 36B talks about providing credits to users of state-based exchanges and makes no mention of any credits to be provided for people who buy QHP coverage through the HHS-run exchanges, Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith writes in an opinion for the majority.

"The fact is that the legislative record provides little indication one way or the other of congressional intent, but the statutory text does," Griffith writes. "Section 36B plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states. And in the absence of any contrary indications, that text is conclusive evidence of Congress’s intent."

Griffith notes that Congress explicitly imposed some key PPACA commercial health insurance provisions, such as guaranteed issue and community rating requirements, on federal territories without providing full exchange subsidy funding for the territories.

PPACA implements some health insurance requirements, such as the community rating requirements, by making changes to the federal Public Health Services Act. HHS last week decided that, because the territories are not going to receive full PPACA expansion funding, the Public Health Services Act excludes territories from its definition of "state," and the PPACA insurance requirements seem to be destabilizing the territories' health insurance markets, the territories can be exempt from the PPACA rules that were set by changing the Public Health Services Act.

Does the employer mandate matter?

Originally posted June 27, 2014 by Kathryn Mayer on

Over the past few years, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has had no shortage of scrutiny.

But the employer mandate, perhaps more than any provision, has become a lightning rod for criticism of the law. The provision — once thought of as a key, if not essential, part of PPACA — since its inception has been vehemently attacked by employer groups and business owners. Originally scheduled to go into effect in 2014, the mandate has twice been delayed by the administration, which says it needs more time to implement the provision.

Under the latest delay, announced in February of this year, employers with between 50 and 99 employees have until January 2016 to offer health insurance or pay a fine, and employers with more than 100 employees must offer insurance or pay a fine of $2,000 per worker by January 2015. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.

Attention to the mandate hit a new high at the Benefits Selling Expo back in April, when Robert Gibbs predicted during a keynote address that the mandate would never be put into effect.

“I don’t think the employer mandate will go into effect. It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go,” he said to a notably surprised audience.

Gibbs, a former longtime advisor to President Barack Obama, noted there aren’t many employers who fall into the mandate window. He said the delays point to the fact that the mandate “will never happen.”

Media outlets quickly ran with the news, prompting the White House to respond.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., maintained that PPACA’s employer mandate will — and must — remain part of the law.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Pelosi said that the “employer mandate, the individual mandate, are an integral part” of PPACA, “This is an initiative that has strong pillars in it that relate to each other.”

Even if it’s nothing more than political fodder over the often controversial law, the latest debate raises the question: Will PPACA’s employer mandate really go into effect? And perhaps more importantly, does it matter?

Mandate doesn’t matter

Experts at the Urban Institute researched this very idea. Their overall consensus? Eliminating the mandate “certainly wouldn’t spell disaster.”

Overall, the Washington, D.C., based think tank said, eliminating the mandate would have little effect on employer-sponsored coverage, would “remove labor market distortions” in the law, and might even squash some of the political opposition.

First of all, it would “scarcely affect the total number of Americans who have coverage.” Even without the mandate, 250.9 million people will have coverage, compared to 251.1 million — only 200,000 more — if the mandate remains intact, researchers said.

“So many people have coverage through their employer now, and no one is requiring them to do,” says Linda Blumberg, a health economist and senior fellow at The Urban Institute. “But there are still incentives for [employers] to do it. It’s a way for them to retain and attract the kinds of workers they want. What we did [in our report] was analyze the tradeoff — firm by firm, worker by worker — and look at how employers make these decisions. And for most of them, they will continue to do this to keep employees happy.”

Frankly, Blumberg says, the employer mandate isn’t central to PPACA’s overarching goals.

“The employer mandate isn’t what’s driving the increase of health insurancecoverage; the individual mandate is,” she says. “And also the subsidies. You don’t want to think about the employer and the individual mandate in the same breath. They are very different. One is really essential to it achieving its goal, and one really isn’t.”

Another advantage of eliminating the employer mandate is simply to please employers. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation have been asking for the mandate to be repealed all along. They’ve argued over detrimental effects: that numerous companies would downsize or cut hours for their employees to dodge the rule. So not only will killing the mandate subdue those concerns, but, Blumberg says, it could get employers to focus on more important issues — and potentially get them on board with supporting the controversial law.

By taking away those requirements for employers, Blumberg says, “you lessen, significantly, the political resistance to the law from employers.”

“If we could get employers more involved with making sure that the workers have coverage, instead of them worrying about how to avoid [the mandate] or being angry about a requirement that might not even affect them, this could be more successful,” she says. “You take away that friction that the employer community has felt, and I think that’s an advantage for broad-based implementation of the law.”

The mandate matters

Still, there are reasons to be cautious about repealing the mandate. One significant one is funding.

By eliminating the employer penalties and the expenses for employee subsidies, the repeal would open a giant hole in PPACA’s financing. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that gap at $140 billion through 2023, while the Urban Institute places it lower, at about $46 billion.

“What we found was smaller than what the CBO estimated, but still, penalties make the revenue,” Blumberg says. “That helps support the cost of the program. I would expect it would have to be replaced by another revenue source.”

Of course, there is the issue of what’s best for employees and employers. Without the requirement of offering employees coverage, will employers simply dump their employees into the exchanges? That’s the fear — one that’s been supported by various studies and reports.

The CBO has predicted that as many as 1 million more people may be uninsured in the absence of the employer mandate, though others argue the number will be much smaller. And those dropped from employer-sponsored coverage would likely face paying more for coverage on the exchanges, some argue.

Tim Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee Law School who supports the law, outlined some issues in a post in Health Affairs.

“The end of the employer mandate, and the reporting requirements that accompany it, would also make the exchanges’ job of determining eligibility for premium tax credits and for exemptions from the individual mandate more difficult,” Jost said. “Eligibility for tax credits and for the individual mandate exemption turns on employee coverage offers and enrollment.  If employer reporting were eliminated together with the mandate, precise verification of whether an employee is eligible for coverage and the extent and cost of that coverage might not be possible.”

Killing the mandate, too, many industry insiders say, wouldn’t quash political wrangling. Killing it may bring up legal questions—the government could face lawsuits over not implementing the law, for example--and it might also be an admission from the administration that Obamacare is failing. Democrats may suffer in the next election cycle. PPACA opponents may call for more repeals in the law. Arguments are endless.

Other alternatives

Of course, because of the revenue hole, there needs to be an alternative if the employer mandate is repealed.

Jost suggested one way: to not just repeal the mandate, but replace it—by requiring employers to spend a certain percentage of their payroll on health benefits. He noted that the House passed a similar version of the employer mandate in 2009.

“The House bill required all employers to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health benefits,” Jost wrote for Health Affairs. “Small employers were required to pay a smaller percentage of payroll, which rose as total payroll increased. Employers who spent less than the minimum paid the difference between what they actually spent and 8 percent of payroll to the federal treasury as a tax.”

The new version of the mandate, Jost said, would “dramatically” reduce the complexity of the current approach.

“Employers would only need to know two numbers: the amount of their payroll and the amount they spent on health benefits,” Jost said.

Of course, it’s not easy to simply repeal and replace.

Still, even without the employer mandate, industry insiders note, employers would need help from brokers on other areas of PPACA compliance, including market reforms and notice requirements.

And, of course, the political environment might not allow for any changes.

“There are certainly a lot of revenue sources, like a payroll tax assessment,” Blumberg says. “There are lots of options for revenue; the problem is you’re going to have political agreement to do that. But that puts us back in the place of, can we get folks to reach across the aisle and say, ‘this isn’t an essential component of this law; it’s a revenue-raising tool causing enough grief and concern among employers that we’d like to find a different revenue source.’ I think the chances are low because of the political reactions these days.”

Looking forward

Whatever the decision, industry folks want to know it — and soon.

Delaying the mandate — though praised by some — has caused more anxiety in the community, because no one knows when, or if, the requirement will really go into effect. And the mandate, whether in place or not, can have an effect on future premiums under the law.

“There’s a real fear, there’s a lack of understanding and there’s confusion — it’s a complicated law,” Blumberg says. “You take a complicated law and you layer on top of it delays and implementing pieces of it  — it creates more confusion and angst.”

Glenn Dunehew, director of health and benefits at the Barrow Group in Atlanta, agrees.

“We need to know, now, that the law is either going to be implemented or postponed,” he says. “The longer that the administration waits on starting it, the more money it costs companies and brokers.”

What if the PPACA plan tax credit is wrong?

Originally posted June 20, 2014 by Allison Bell on

Issuers of public exchange plans should use enrollment records and formal appeal processes to clear up any consumer concerns about tax credit subsidy amounts. Issuers of "qualified health plans" (QHPs) should not simply assume a consumer knows what the right subsidy amount is.

Officials at the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) -- the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agency in charge of overseeing Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) commercial health insurance programs -- give that answer and others in a new batch of exchange plan casework advice.

CCIIO officials also answer questions about matters such as "plan enrollees" who appear out of nowhere, the definition of "defective enrollment," and the meaning of "ARC referral."

In answers to questions about QHP "advance premium tax credit" problems, officials note that QHP issuers may have access to two sets of enrollment data: 834 transaction files from the exchange, and "pre-audit files." An issuer can use either the 834 file data or the pre-audit file data to solve tax credit questions, officials say. If neither source works, the consumer will have to file a formal appeal through the exchange program appeal system, according to officials.

Similarly, if consumers say they have enrolled in a QHP, and the QHP has no ready information about the consumers, the first step should be for the issuer to look at the 834 files and the pre-audit files. If consumers can show that they have formal confirmation that they enrolled in the QHP, the issuer should talk to the help desk CCIIO runs for the QHP issuers, the CCIIO says.

Officials note that they are using the term "defective enrollment" to refer to a situation in which a consumer has completed a QHP enrollment through an exchange, but the QHP issuer has no record of the enrollment in either an 834 file or a pre-audit file.

In the answer to a question about "ARC referrals," CCIIO officials say they use the term to describe urgent QHP problems that are referred to an "advance resolution center." The call center routes those urgent cases to regional offices.

For insurers, the standard resolution time for ARC referral cases is 72 hours. But "we request that issuers give these infrequent cases their prompt attention," officials say.

Subsidies May Be Too High Or Low For Some Who Got Coverage

Originally posted May 19, 2014 on

More than a million Americans listed incomes on their health insurance applications that differ significantly from those on file with the Internal Revenue Service and therefore may be getting subsidies that are too high or low, The Washington Post says. Other media outlets report that states can decide whether to carry out a key part of the health law's small business exchanges for 2015 and that civil fines of up to $250,000 may be imposed on those who knowingly provide false information to get a subsidy.

The Washington Post: Federal Health-Care Subsidies May Be Too High Or Too Low For More Than 1 Million Americans

The government may be paying incorrect subsidies to more than 1 million Americans for their health plans in the new federal insurance marketplace and has been unable so far to fix the errors, according to internal documents and three people familiar with the situation. The problem means that potentially hundreds of thousands of people are receiving bigger subsidies than they deserve. They are part of a large group of Americans who listed incomes on their insurance applications that differ significantly — either too low or too high — from those on file with the Internal Revenue Service, documents show (Goldstein and Somashekhar, 5/16).

The Wall Street Journal: States To Decide On Key Part Of Small-Business Health Exchanges

The Obama administration said Friday it would let states decide whether to implement a key part of the health law's small-business exchanges next year, extending an earlier delay. The Department of Health and Human Services said in rules released Friday that it would be up to state insurance commissioners to decide whether employees at small businesses using the health-insurance exchanges could choose from a range of plans or be limited to just one selected by their employer (Radnofsky, 5/16).

The Associated Press: $250K Fine For Lying On Health Insurance Forms

Lying to the federal health insurance man could cost you dearly. The Obama administration Friday spelled out civil fines of up to $250,000 for knowingly and willfully providing false information to get taxpayer-subsidized coverage under the new health care law (5/16).

The Hill:  HHS Opens Door To Extra Funds For Insurers

Health insurance companies can count on funds from the government if ObamaCare's risk corridor program does not sufficiently cover losses that are higher than expected this year.  This news was published in regulations Friday outlining how the law's health insurance exchanges will operate in 2015 (Viebeck, 5/16).

The Fiscal Times: Senators on Botched Obamacare Websites: You Break It, You Bought It

Republican senators are demanding answers from the Obama administration on the handful of failed state exchange websites that have cost taxpayers literally billions of dollars. Some even say that the states should reimburse the government for the cost of these exchange failures. So far, at least four largely inoperable state websites – in Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada and Oregon – have cost the federal government $4 billion. That number is expected to rise as the states spend more money to replace or rebuild the bad sites (Ehley, 5/16).

ACA subsidies reliant on ‘self-reporting’ with absence of employer mandate

Originally posted by Gillian Roberts on

Industry insiders are beginning to find holes in the Affordable Care Act employer mandate delay announced last week by the Obama administration and U.S. Department of Treasury. The biggest hole so far, say brokers and media alike, is self-reporting for subsidies.

Thom Mangan, CEO of United Benefit Advisers and EBA advisory board member, says he had one main question for the Treasury after the announcement: What about the people who were going to potentially be eligible for subsidies if their employer was not offering “affordable” coverage, as the ACA stipulates? That answer came Friday from the Obama Administration. “It’s crazy,” Mangan says. “It’s self-reporting … Employers don’t have a mandate to go and report if a person is eligible for subsidy. Some people will just apply and they may be at 400% of poverty level, they may be 50%, whatever they report is whatever goes through.”

The announcement, which Mangan says was expected from the Treasury, came in a 606-page document that not only answered his aforementioned question but made clear that all subsidy verification would rely on self-reporting until 2015. Mangan says he predicts there are going to be “plenty” of people who are not qualified for subsidies getting them anyway. “We’re in for an awful 2014, 2015 for the IRS trying to figure this out,” he says.

A Mercer statement Monday on the subsidy loophole nodded to even more potential confusion. “Public exchanges, which are slated to be operational in 2014, may still reach out to employers to verify applicant eligibility for health insurance,” the statement said.

“It will be state by state, and it’s just going to be part of your tax return,” Mangan says about the possibility of some states pursuing verification. “I just moved to Illinois and it was pretty simple in my W2 paperwork, there’s a box [asking if you have health insurance] that if you didn’t check it, you’re going to get flagged.” He caveated that Illinois is ahead of other states in preparing paperwork of this nature already. With some states verifying and others potentially not, the budget could get tricky.

Also contributing to new budgeting problems for the ACA is the missing funds from employer penalties in 2014. Despite the varying sources that say between 94% and 98% of employers already offer coverage, Mangan says there were definitely some businesses planning to pay the fine and not “play.” He explains: “There were still some employers in the high part-time or low-wage industries that never provided benefits. They have 300% annual turnover in the fast food industry … that was more of a logistical nightmare than providing health insurance.” In fact, the Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the penalties from employers would add up to approximately $10 billion in 2014.

“I’d say the CBO had it spot on in terms of what we won’t collect in the end,” Mangan says.

Meanwhile, business groups and insurance brokers and agents immediately celebrated the extra time allowed for employer shared responsibility reporting, un-burdening employers who do not currently offer coverage, or were considering making a change, from making a decision on whether they would pay or play until 2015.

Brian Kalish contributed to this report.