Jumps In ACA Sign-Ups Begin In November
Heading into the 2nd week of the ACA’s annual open-enrollment period, early sign-ups and traffic appear strong, report industry and government officials – More than 600,000 people have selected plans through the federal HealthCare.gov website in the initial days.
ACA insurers including Highmark Health, CareSource, Independence Blue Cross and Sanford Health Plan said they were seeing significantly increased sign-ups compared with last year’s enrollment period. Insurers caution that it isn’t clear that the early surge will be borne out in the final enrollment numbers, which likely won’t be known until next year.
In the first four days of ACA open enrollment – Began Nov. 1st – 601,462 people selected insurance plans for next year using the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov. Of those, 137,322 counted as new customers, as they won’t be in an ACA plan at the end of 2017. The federal insurance exchange is used by 39 states.
The pace appears substantially faster than it was a year ago. In the first five days of last year’s open enrollment—Nov. 1-5, 2016—415,512 people selected plans through HealthCare.gov, federal data reports.
State ACA exchanges in Washington, Idaho and New York (separate from HealthCare.gov) also reported significant increases in traffic on their sites compared with last year.
And, in California, sign-ups on the first day were substantially higher than before as reported by the state’s ACA exchange Covered California … but note that healthier consumers, who are important to the stability of the insurance market, often wait to enroll.
Why It’s Happening:
Early ACA consumer volume likely reflects the shorter open-enrollment period this year compared with prior years. Insurers have been pressing hard to get consumers to shop early; in most states, enrollment will end on Dec. 15, 2017.
What Is The Outcome?
Insurers worry that overall ACA-plan enrollment for 2018 will ultimately drop, because of steep premium increases in many places. This year the increases are being implemented in a way that creates a bifurcated market, due to the details of the law and a recent administration action – summarized below:
– Those who don’t get federal premium subsidies—available to a person making up to around $48,000—may feel the full brunt of rate increases. Insurers often won’t know if people are dropping out of the ACA coverage until next year, since the consumers may be automatically re-enrolled but then decline to pay their first 2018 premium.
– On the other side, many people with lower incomes, and qualify for subsidies, can select from an array of plans for which they will pay little or nothing in premiums.
Major insurance agency HealthMarkets Inc. is seeing sign-ups for ACA coverage running more than 50% higher than they were at the same point last year, driven by “gangbusters” activity among subsidized consumers. At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, which increased its rates by 48% on average for next year’s plans, consumers who don’t get subsidies are expressing frustrated. Many of those who are eligible for subsidies are surprised at the low cost of insurance.
Source: WSJ 11-10-17