October 13, 2014

ACA’s Second Open Enrollment Faces Challenges

A number of media outlets covered the second annual open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act over the weekend. The enrollment begins on November 15, and Federal and state officials hope to add to the millions of people who have already signed up for coverage.

The Wall Street Journal  (10/11, Johnson, Subscription Publication) offered an overview of open enrollment. The seven million people who enrolled in coverage last year will have their policies automatically reinstated, but health policy experts recommend that consumers evaluate their options again this year in order to take advantage of new insurers participating in many places. This enrollment period is half as long as last year’s, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) faces challenges reaching people who remain uninsured.

Politico  (10/13, Haberkorn) reports that the Obama Administration, which was “sobered” and “burned” by “last fall’s meltdown” of, is “setting expectations for the second Obamacare open enrollment period as low as possible.” According to officials, the site “won’t be perfect but will be improved.” Moreover, officials “refuse to pinpoint how many people they plan to enroll, instead describing general goals of reducing the number of uninsured and providing a positive ‘customer experience’ — not exactly metrics that can be immediately judged.”

Fox Business  (10/10, Willis) reported in its “Willis Report” blog on lingering uncertainty about the enrollment period. Premiums have not been publicized, how well will work is not yet clear, and “several hundred thousand people” face a fresh round of policy cancellations. The piece’s conclusion emphasizes the lingering unknowns: “So, truth be told, Obamacare Year 2 remains a mystery, though Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has already said that it won’t be perfect.”

Congressional Quarterly  (10/10, Reichard, Subscription Publication) reported that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a report suggesting the Federal government has paid less in premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion than it expected. CBO analyzed initial data from ACA enrollment and found $13 billion spent on subsidies compared to a 2010 estimate of $19 billion. Total Medicaid costs amounted to $302 billion compared to projections of “between $320 billion and $335 billion.” Past estimates suggest roughly half of the Federal share of Medicaid went toward people who became eligible because of the ACA.

The Washington Times  (10/13, Howell) focuses on state-run exchanges that suffered from serious problems last year, including Nevada and Maryland. States have generally learned from their past mistakes and have improved their electronic systems, but it remains to be seen exactly how they perform when more people try to enroll next month.

The North Jersey (NJ) Media Group  (10/11, Diskin) reported that “supporters of the nation’s new health-insurance law are gearing up for the second enrollment season, targeting communities where cultural, language, economic and other hurdles exist to getting people covered in greater numbers.” These efforts at education and advocacy have already begun despite open enrollment not starting until the 15th.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (10/13) analyzes data from last year’s enrollment season and found low enrollment among people living in rural areas, African Americans, and Latinos. As a result, the Post-Dispatch notes, in the upcoming enrollment “more needs to be done to bring coverage to historically uninsured populations.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  (10/12, Robison) reported that officials in Nevada are cautiously optimistic that the state exchange will not repeat the poor performance from last year. The Review-Journal outlined the steps taken by the exchange to improve its performance.

Similarly, the Idaho State Journal  (10/11, Evensen) reported on efforts to improve the performance of the Idaho Health Insurance Exchange.

LifeHealthPro  (10/10, McCarthy) reports on efforts at the state and national levels to increase enrollment in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which has not been as popular as individual marketplaces.

More Insurers Participating. Modern Healthcare  (10/10, Demko, Subscription Publication) reported that the ultimate success of the first open enrollment period has encouraged more insurance companies to participate this year. Healthcare giants like UnitedHealth, Cigna, Aetna, and Humana are participating in new markets, joining WellPoint and Blue Cross and Blue Shield, both of which had a large footprint last year.

Modern Healthcare  (10/11, Demko, Subscription Publication) reported that UnitedHealth may offer more details about its plans for the upcoming open enrollment period during a earnings call on Thursday. The company plans to “more than double its exchange footprint.”

Alabama Live  (10/10, Toner) noted that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s “hefty market share allows it to bring down costs,” but it faces fresh competition.

Many Consumers Confused By Insurance Options. The Las Vegas Review-Journal  (10/12, Robison) reported that Nevada Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper has said that only 15% of people possess “insurance literacy,” meaning most people do not understand the health insurance market. The article offers readers an easy-to-understand guide to the basics of open enrollment and health insurance. The article encouraged everyone to carry insurance and offered advice for how to get the most out of a policy while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses.

The Potsdam (NY) North Country Now  (10/11, Lawton) also provided a consumer-directed view of the coming enrollment period, noting both the subsidies available for people pursuing a policy as well as the tax penalty that will first be charged next year to most people not carrying coverage. The paper explained that help is available to consumers: “While anyone can fill out the application on their own online, a navigator has experience working with the application and can answer your tough questions.”

The Tri-City Herald (WA)  (10/11, Schilling) reported that the director of Washington state’s health insurance exchange is encouraging people to sign up for coverage at the beginning of open enrollment in order to avoid the inevitable last-minute rush.


Source: NAHU Newswire