Oba­macare en­roll­ment soars

Cal­i­for­nia’s in­di­vid­ual health in­sur­ance mar­ket grows 64% to 2.2 mil­lion in 2014.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Chad Ter­hune chad.ter­hune@la­times.com Twit­ter: @chadter­hune

The num­ber of Cal­i­for­ni­ans buy­ing in­di­vid­ual health in­sur­ance soared 64% to nearly 2.2 mil­lion as Oba­macare took full ef­fect last year, a new re­port shows.

In Cal­i­for­nia, 843,607 peo­ple joined the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket both in­side and out­side the Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia in­sur­ance ex­change as of Dec. 31.

Cal­i­for­nia and three other states — Florida, Texas and Ge­or­gia — ac­counted for about half of the en­roll­ment growth na­tion­wide for in­di­vid­ual poli­cies, ac­cord­ing to the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day.

Na­tion­ally, 15.5 mil­lion peo­ple had pur­chased their own in­di­vid­ual health pol­icy by year’s end. That’s up 4.8 mil­lion, or 46%, from De­cem­ber 2013.

The Af­ford­able Care Act trig­gered a ma­jor over­haul of the health in­sur­ance mar­ket by guar­an­tee­ing peo­ple cov­er­age re­gard­less of their med­i­cal con­di­tions and pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sub­si­dies to lower-in­come con­sumers.

The health­care law also re­quires most Amer­i­cans to pur­chase health in­sur­ance or pay a penalty.

Nearly half of Cal­i­for­ni­ans con­tinue to get their health benefits through their em­ployer, but the per­cent­age of Cal­i­for­nia firms of­fer­ing cov­er­age to work­ers has been fall­ing in re­cent years.

In all, 58% of Cal­i­for­nia em­ploy­ers of­fered cov­er­age to their work­ers last year, com­pared with 69% in 2010, ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia Health­Care Foun­da­tion.

The anal­y­sis of the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket pub­lished Wed­nes­day by the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion re­lied on in­sur­ers’ state reg­u­la­tory fil­ings as of Dec. 31. The fig­ures don’t in­clude the en­tire open en­roll­ment pe­riod, which ended in Fe­bru­ary.

The Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia ex­change has about 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple en­rolled. Con­sumers can also buy poli­cies out­side the state mar­ket­place, but there are no fed­eral pre­mium sub­si­dies avail­able out­side gov­ern­ment-run ex­changes.

State of­fi­cials are re­mind­ing peo­ple that they have un­til Thurs­day to qual­ify for a spe­cial en­roll­ment pe­riod. Con­sumers can sim­ply at­test that they were un­aware of the health law’s fi­nan­cial penal­ties for be­ing unin­sured.

More than 33,000 Cal­i­for­ni­ans have cited that rea­son for en­rolling dur­ing the ex­tended pe­riod since late Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to the ex­change.

Con­sumers who ex­pe­ri­ence other qual­i­fy­ing events, such as mov­ing or los­ing job­based in­sur­ance, can also sign up dur­ing spe­cial en­roll­ment.

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