One Hundred Organizations Receive $67 Million in Navigator Grants: On September 2, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $67 million in Navigator grant awards to 100 organizations in 34 states using HealthCare.gov. Around two-thirds of the grantees have served as Navigators during the first and/or second open enrollment periods. Unlike previous one-year granting periods, this year’s awards will last for three years, with 12-month budget cycles. The full list of awardees is available here.
Nearly 10 Million Americans Enrolled in Plans Through the Health Insurance Marketplaces: On June 30, 9.9 million Americans had effectuated health coverage through the health insurance marketplaces, according to a quarterly snapshot released on September 8 by HHS. Around 84 percent of those enrollees were receiving premium tax credits (averaging $270 a month), and 56 percent qualified for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs). The snapshot from HHS includes state-by-state enrollment counts and percentages of enrollees receiving tax credits and CSRs. Last year, HHS had set a goal of 9.1 million effectuated marketplace enrollees by the end of 2015.
Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment Has Increased by 13.1 Million Americans Since October 2013: From the start of the first Affordable Care Act open enrollment period (OE1) in October 2013 through June 2015, an additional 13.1 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to a report released by HHS on August 31. This is a 23 percent increase compared to average enrollment for the three months prior to OE1. Enrollment increased by 30 percent increase in states that expanded Medicaid, and non-expansion states saw a 10 percent increase.
States Approving Health Insurance Rates for 2016: In the last two weeks, nine states — Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, and Washington State — have approved health insurance premiums for the 2016 plan year. Increases in premiums range from state to state, with an average increase of 4.2 percent in Washington State and nearly 40 percent in Alaska. Changes in premiums also vary within each state by region and by plan type — for example, in Miami-Dade county, average premiums for Silver plans will decrease by 5 percent. The amount of financial help consumers can receive to pay their premiums is tied to changes in local premium levels, so enrollees receiving financial help — around 85 percent — won’t face full premiums. An HHS report last year found that 7 in 10 consumers re-enrolling in coverage for 2015 could lower their premium while keeping the same level of coverage by shopping around for a new plan.
Medicaid Expansion Takes Effect in Alaska: As of September 1, Alaskans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level could enroll in Medicaid coverage. Individuals can apply online at the program’s website or by visiting a Public Assistance office.
Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) Updates:
- Re-Enrollment Guidance: On August 25, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a technical bulletin with guidance for insurers on re-enrolling consumers in the FFM.
- Assister Training: On August 24, CMS released instructions for certification and re-certification for Certified Application Counselors (CACs) and Navigators for the upcoming open enrollment period. CACs can now access the training they need to take to become certified by accessing the CMS Enterprise Portal. Last year’s certifications expire on September 15.
- Benchmark Plans: CMS has issued a list of state’s proposed 2017 benchmark plans. The benchmark plan is used to determine benefits packages that all marketplace plans in the state must offer. There is a public-comment period through September 30.
State-Based Marketplace (SBM) Updates:
- Hawaii: The state’s Office of the Auditor released an audit this month on the Hawaii Health Connector, criticizing the marketplace’s financial management. The report includes a response from the marketplace, which disputes several of the figures and conclusions in the report.
- Minnesota: On August 26, MNsure announced it was creating a permanent, available-year-round Special Enrollment Period that victims of domestic violence can use to get their own health coverage through the marketplace.
- Washington State: Because of reduced funding from the state, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s board of directors voted to approve a budget for 2015-2017 with a decrease in funding and lower staffing levels.