Ex­change en­roll­ment on track to meet or beat pro­jec­tions

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Adam Ruben­fire

The lat­est en­roll­ment num­bers from the in­surance ex­changes show that after the first month of open en­roll­ment, sign-ups are on track to meet or sur­pass the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­jec­tion that 9 mil­lion to 10 mil­lion Americans will buy ex­change plan cov­er­age for 2015.

More than 1 mil­lion Americans en­rolled through Health­Care.gov from Dec. 6 to Dec. 12, boost­ing the over­all to­tal for the first four weeks of the sec­ond open-en­roll­ment pe­riod to almost 2.5 mil­lion. In ad­di­tion, more than 750,000 peo­ple are es­ti­mated to have se­lected or re-en­rolled in plans through the 14 state-run ex­changes in states in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia and New York, plus the Dis­trict of Columbia.

By com­par­i­son, dur­ing the first month of open en­roll­ment last year, only 106,185 in­di­vid­u­als had en­rolled in plans through the fed­eral and state ex­changes, many of which ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere tech­ni­cal prob­lems.

More than half of those who en­rolled be­tween Dec. 6 and Dec. 12 were re­new­ing their cov­er­age, while the rest were new cus­tomers.

“What a dif­fer­ence a year makes,” said Kather­ine Hemp­stead, di­rec­tor of cov­er­age at the Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion. “There’s the ab­sence of all the tech­no­log­i­cal prob­lems that made en­roll­ment so frus­trat­ing around this time last year. The signs are that peo­ple re­ally did value the op­por­tu­nity to get in­surance.”

With open en­roll­ment sched­uled to end Feb. 15, Hemp­stead said the lat­est num­bers sug­gest the ad­min­is­tra­tion will ex­ceed its cau­tious en­roll­ment goal for 2015. Con­sumers had to sign up by Dec. 15 to start cov­er­age on Jan. 1, though some states and in­sur­ers ex­tended the dead­line un­til later in the month. And many in­sur­ers are giv­ing cus­tomers ex­tra time to pay their Jan­uary pre­mi­ums.

Be­sides con­sumer de­mand, the strong en­roll­ment may be the re­sult of more in­sur­ers of­fer­ing more prod­ucts, mar­ket­ing ag­gres­sively and keep­ing pre­mium in­creases mod­est in many mar­kets.

In con­duct­ing their own mar­ket­ing for the ex­change, in­sur­ers have shown they are in­creas­ingly com­fort­able with the mar­ket­place for­mat, Hemp­stead said. “Once there was an ac­tual cus­tomer base in the first en­roll­ment pe­riod, the car­ri­ers be­came a much more im­por­tant part of the

“What a dif­fer­ence a year makes. There’s the ab­sence of all the tech­no­log­i­cal prob­lems that made en­roll­ment so frus­trat­ing around this time last year. The signs are that peo­ple re­ally did value the op­por­tu­nity to get in­surance.” Kather­ine Hemp­stead Di­rec­tor of cov­er­age Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion.

in­for­ma­tion stream,” she said. “They were more vis­i­ble.”

The CMS has not re­leased data on the num­ber of ex­change plan cus­tomers who pas­sively al­lowed them­selves to be re-en­rolled in their cur­rent plan. The lat­est data also do not in­clude en­roll­ment ac­tiv­ity the week­end be­fore the Dec. 15 dead­line, when there likely was a surge of pro­cras­ti­nat­ing shop­pers.

Sara Collins, a vice pres­i­dent at the Com­mon­wealth Fund, said that while the first month’s to­tals look en­cour­ag­ing, it’s too early to make re­li­able pro­jec­tions. “We re­ally don’t have a good sense un­til the very end of the ope­nen­roll­ment pe­riod,” she said, not­ing the huge surge in 2014 en­roll­ments in the last few weeks of the pre­vi­ous sign-up pe­riod. She added that it will be par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing to see how the auto-en­roll­ment process, which is new for this year, plays out. State and fed­eral ex­change of­fi­cials are ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing 2014 en­rollees to re­turn to the mar­ket­places to shop for po­ten­tially bet­ter deals.

Avalere Health es­ti­mated last week that there will be be­tween 4.5 mil­lion and 6 mil­lion new en­rollees by Feb. 15 in the fed­eral and state ex­changes, with to­tal signups on course to reach be­tween 9.5 mil­lion and 11.5 mil­lion.

On a more skep­ti­cal note, Mark Pauly, a pro­fes­sor of health­care man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, said, “There’s still a long way to go to 9 mil­lion.” Re­gard­less of whether the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goal is reached, Pauly said, many peo­ple still can’t af­ford health­care cov­er­age and will re­main unin­sured.

“We’ll still be well be­hind in terms of cov­er­ing every­body or even close to every­body,” he said. “It’s not whether they hit their tar­gets—it’s whether we make the kind of dent (in the unin­sured rate) that peo­ple thought was the pur­pose.”

Though the en­roll­ment num­bers ap­pear strong so far, they likely won’t do much to im­prove pub­lic opin­ion of the health­care re­form law, said Yev­geniy Fey­man, a fel­low at the con­ser­va­tive Man­hat­tan In­sti­tute.

A new survey last week by the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion found the re­form law re­mains un­pop­u­lar, but spe­cific pro­vi­sions have broad support. Roughly one-third of re­spon­dents said they wanted to re­peal the law en­tirely, while nearly half fa­vored ei­ther ex­pand­ing the law (24%), or im­ple­ment­ing it as cur­rently writ­ten (21%). The rest ei­ther wanted to scale it back or had no opin­ion. About 75% ex­pressed support for the ex­changes, the pre­mium sub­si­dies and Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion.

The em­ployer man­date, which takes ef­fect next year for com­pa­nies with at least 100 work­ers, was backed by 60% of those sur­veyed. But only 35% sup­ported the man­date that ev­ery­one buy cov­er­age.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.