Payers

Where’s the data behind CMS’ Obamacare coverage map?

Last month, CMS released a map showing a county by county analysis of how many insurers are expected to participate in the ACA exchanges in 2018. But why hasn’t the agency unveiled the raw data behind it?

Question mark heap on table concept for confusion,

In mid-June, CMS released a fascinating map of the United States.

The document shows a county by county analysis of how many insurers are expected to participate in the ACA exchanges next year.

The original map — which reflected data accurate as of June 9 — showed 47 counties in Washington, Missouri and Ohio are projected to have zero ACA carriers in 2018. Another 1,200 counties are expected to only have one Obamacare insurer next year.

The information was so intriguing that MedPage Today writer Matt Wynn decided to take a closer look.

Although the map claims “all state exchange data is self-reported from the exchanges to CMS (CA, CO, CT, DC, ID, MA, MD, MN, NY, RI, VT, WA),” Wynn wanted to get a hold of all the data behind the map.

“I expected to get a spreadsheet listing each county and the number of providers, something we could analyze and compare to other information CMS provides,” Wynn wrote in a MedPage Today article.

But to no avail. He checked out CMS’ site and found nothing. He contacted CMS’ media relations department, but was informed that additional information wouldn’t be shared at the time.

So Wynn picked up his telephone and called CMS directly. The man who answered the phone told him the data was available, and he advised sending another email. Wynn did just that, but received the same response he’d gotten before: The information wasn’t going to be disclosed.

After yet another call and email, Wynn at last had somewhat of an answer: “the map was based on current 2017 issuer participation information supplemented by public statements made by the issuers and public rate filings related to plan year 2018,” he wrote in the article. “The information is expected to continue to change, and data will be released in the fall, as usual.”

Moral of the story? This isn’t what’s supposed to happen, at least according to Wynn.

The situation “raises questions about CMS intentions,” and whether the aim is “to inform the public or to promote the political agenda of the White House, which has been relentless in its criticism of the Affordable Care Act.”

Two weeks after the initial release of the map, CMS unveiled an updated version. The new map — which reflected data accurate as of June 27 — shows 49 counties in Missouri, Indiana and Ohio are projected to be without an ACA insurer in 2018. As many as 1,300 U.S. counties are expected to only have one issuer next year.

Photo: bernie_photo, Getty Images