As of January 9, a total of 186,232 Ohio residents had enrolled in 2015 plans through Healthcare.gov. This was a huge jump from the number of people who had enrolled as of December 15 (88,927), but the December total didn’t include people whose plans were auto-renewed. The January 9 total includes everyone who enrolled with a January 1 effective date, including auto-renewals, and it also includes everyone who had signed up for February 1 policies by January 9.
Total enrollment in the Ohio exchange as of January 9 – with more than a month to go in open enrollment – was already well above Ohio’s total exchange enrollment in 2014 during the whole open enrollment, which lasted more than six months (in 2014, Ohio’s enrollment was a little less than 155 thousand by the end of open enrollment).
Another 26,263 exchange enrollees were found to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP in Ohio in the first month of 2015 open enrollment. Medicaid/CHIP enrollment continues year-round, but more people tend to enroll during open enrollment because of the extensive publicity and outreach.
To get a policy with a February 1 effective date, enrollments need to be completed today – January 15. If you enroll between January 16 and February 15, your coverage will be effective March 1. Open enrollment for 2015 ends on February 15. After that date, you will not be able to switch plans or purchase new individual coverage – including coverage outside the exchange – for the remainder of the year unless you have a qualifying event.
Get Covered America launched a friendly rivalry in late November between Ohio and Michigan, playing off the states’ long-standing football rivalry, and announced in the days leading up to the Ohio State v. Michigan game. The “Calls for Coverage” challenge pits enrollment teams in Ohio and Michigan against one another for the 2015 open enrollment period, to see which state can complete more educational calls to consumers.
2015 rates and carriers
Sixteen carriers are selling 2015 individual plans in the Ohio exchange, up from twelve in 2014. Ohio is tied with Michigan for having the most carriers of any exchange in the country for 2015. After reviewing plans and rates, the Ohio Department of Insurance announced in the fall that the average rate increase for 2015 would be 12 percent in the individual market – a double digit hike that was immediately held up by ACA opponents as evidence of the law’s failure to rein in premiums.
But the Department of Insurance used very basic math in their calculation, and the result is not particularly informative. A weighted average would have been much more helpful, and appears that it would also be significantly lower. In short, people who purchase their coverage through the exchange in Ohio should not expect double digit rate increases in 2015. Many plans will have much more modest premium adjustments.
If we look only at plans sold within the exchange, a Commonwealth Fund analysis finds an average price increase of just 4 percent across all plans and all metal levels, for a 40 year-old non-smoker. For the least expensive silver plans, in 42 of Ohio’s 88 counties, prices are either flat or decreasing for 2015.
People who were enrolled in the second-lowest-cost silver plan (the benchmark plan) in 2014 could also see a decrease in premiums in 2015 if they’re willing to shop around and make sure that they are enrolled in the benchmark plan for 2015. In many cases this will mean switching to a new plan, but in most areas of the state, it will also result in a premium decrease or just a small increase. For benchmark plan enrollees who qualify for premium subsidies, the changes will be mostly offset by adjustments to the premium subsidies for 2015.
In the Cleveland area, the lowest and second-lowest cost silver plans and the lowest cost bronze plan are all being offered by new carriers in 2015. All three have switched from the carriers that were offering them in 2014, highlighting the importance of shopping around during open enrollment.
Also in the Cleveland area, the benchmark plan for a 40-year-old non-smoker will be an average of $247 per month in 2015, down two dollars from $249 in 2014. Media reports of double digit price increases in Ohio were overblown, and residents should not let those reports scare them away from checking out the plans that are available. The state has a very robust exchange with 16 carriers participating; both new and returning enrollees should be able to find a plan that fits their needs and budget.
A possible lawsuit brewing
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is considering a lawsuit against the federal government over an aspect of the ACA that DeWine’s office – and at least one Ohio County as well – believes is illegal.
The crux of the issue is the reinsurance fee assessed under Obamacare to provide rate stabilization in the insurance market for the first three years of ACA implementation. This requires a per-user fee on all health insurance plans, including self-insured plans like the state of Ohio has for its workers. Across all of the state’s employees, the reinsurance fee comes is at $5.3 million for 2014, and DeWine sees it as a case of one government (federal) taxing another (state).
DeWine is consulting with AGs in other states, so there may be multiple states involved. A lawsuit appears likely by the end of January, although the likely outcome at this point is unclear.
Medicaid expansion in the Buckeye state
Ohio Governor John Kasich is not an ACA proponent, but he’s long been a supporter of expanding Medicaid in Ohio, which was approved in late October 2013. Eligible residents were able to begin enrolling in expanded Medicaid on December 9, 2013 and the state received 1,165 applications on the first day of enrollment. By August, net enrollment in Ohio’s Medicaid program had grown by more than 367,000 people since the fall of 2013.
However, opponents of Medicaid expansion brought a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Medicaid and the state’s Controlling Board because the General Assembly was bypassed in the decision to expand Medicaid. The plaintiffs hoped to block the state from expanding Medicaid to cover approximately 366,000 residents who would be newly eligible under the expanded guidelines. But on December 20th, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with Governor Kasich and kept Ohio Medicaid expansion on track.
Although Medicaid expansion is going well in Ohio, curiously, Governor Kasich has continued to reiterate his support for repealing Obamacare. In October, he said that he’d like to see a full repeal, but with an accommodation for Medicaid expansion. Charles Gaba crunched the numbers and points out that if Ohio were to pay for its own expanded Medicaid (which would have to be the case if they wanted to keep it even in the face of a full repeal of the ACA), it would amount to an $840 million annual tax increase shouldered by the people of Ohio (reminiscent of Mitch McConnell pushing for repeal of the ACA while allowing Kentucky to keep Kynect?).
2014 enrollment and prices
By mid-April, 154,668 Ohio residents had completed their Obamacare enrollment, selecting private plans in the exchange.
And by the end of August, 367,395 people in Ohio had enrolled in the newly-expanded Medicaid program in Ohio – surpassing the state’s estimate for this year and next year combined. In addition, by mid-April another 124,195 people had enrolled in Medicaid who qualified based on the old guidelines but had not been previously enrolled. Their enrollment is due in large part to the attention that ACA implementation has brought to the Medicaid program, called the “woodwork” effect.
All told, that’s over 646,000 people in Ohio who obtained new health insurance by the fall of 2014, thanks to Obamacare.
A report released by HHS in June compared after-subsidy premiums paid by exchange enrollees in the 36 states where HHS is running the exchange. In Ohio, the average after-subsidy premium was $121 per month – significantly higher than the $82 per month average across all 36 states.
Ohio’s after-subsidy premiums in 2014 were the fourth highest among the 36 states (only New Jersey, North Dakota and Deleware are higher), but the discrepancy is a factor of the enrollees’ incomes and the plans they selected: The ACA completely levels the field for people with the same incomes who select the second-lowest-cost silver plan in their exchanges. But among enrollees who qualify for subsidy, there are significant differences in income, and enrollees are free to apply their subsidies to any “metal” plan in the exchange.
Although the average after-subsidy premiums are higher in Ohio than in most other states, base rates in the Ohio exchange are just slightly lower than the average of the 36 states where HHS is running the exchange. Averaged across all age groups, the lowest cost 2014 bronze plan in the Ohio exchange was $263/month, and the lowest cost silver plan was $304/month.
Exchange history in Ohio
In November 2012, Governor Kasich formally announced that Ohio would not implement a state-run health insurance exchange. In the same letter, Kasich indicated that Ohio would retain control of plan management activities and determining eligibility for the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP).
CMS announced on November 22 that the technology necessary for applicants to enroll in exchange plans directly through insurers was working and being piloted in three states, including Ohio. The program was summarized in a presentation by Families USA in early March.
Ohio residents can compare plans, determine subsidy eligibility and enroll in coverage at Healthcare.gov.
Leadership’s opposition to the ACA
In June 2013, the Ohio Department of Insurance issued a press release announcing that 14 insurers filed plans to offer more than 200 options for individual insurance, and seven insurers would offer 84 options for small businesses (ultimately, two carriers backed out, leaving 12 in the exchange in 2014). Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who also directs the state’s insurance department, stated in the press release that “consumers will have fewer choices and pay much higher premiums for their health insurance starting in 2014.”
Both opponents and supporters of the Affordable Care Act jumped on the press release. Opponents claimed Ohio was the latest example of “rate shock.” Supporters dismissed the announcement for making “apples-to-oranges” comparisons and pointed out that both Kasich and Taylor have been outspoken about their opposition to the ACA.
Taylor is still no fan of the ACA, and is still the Director of the Department of Insurance. In a May 2014 press release, Taylor said that “Obamacare is hitting us harder and driving our costs up significantly.”
Laws were enacted in Ohio to make it more difficult for navigators to be certified, which means that the state has fewer people available to assist applicants, and there was a delay in getting them started as navigators after the exchange opened on October 1.
A private exchange
On June 10, CieloStar announced that it had partnered with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce to launch a private health insurance and benefits exchange, which they said was open for business in early June.
The private exchange in Ohio purports to offer a variety of major medical and supplemental plans for individuals, along with coverage options for small and large groups. For individuals, it looks like the only options are CareSource Just4Me plans, but they do appear to be ACA-compliant coverage (ie, “real” health insurance as opposed to discount plans that are being sold by other official-looking exchanges).
Ohio health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Ohio
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Ohio’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.