476K Insurance Applications Completed Through ACA’s Exchanges
About 476,000 applications for health insurance have been filed through the Affordable Care Act's federally run and state-operated health insurance exchanges since open enrollment began on Oct. 1, according to preliminary data provided by the White House over the weekend, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Huggins, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/19).
Of all applications, about half have been completed on the federal exchange -- HealthCare.gov -- and the other half have come from the 14 states and the District of Columbia that are operating their own marketplaces (Pace, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/20).
According to an administration official, 476,000 people have submitted full applications for coverage. However, according to the Washington Post's "Wonkblog," that is just the first step toward obtaining coverage, and the consumers are "at the start of the shopping process" and have at least two more steps before they purchase coverage. In the second step, the federal government will check applicants' eligibility for Medicaid or subsidies to help purchase coverage through the exchange. In the third step, the consumers must choose a plan from a number of different options (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/20).
Insurers Sending Cancellation Notices
In related news, a number of health insurers are sending letters to consumers who buy their own health coverage to let them know that their plans have been canceled, mostly because the policies fall short of minimum standards under the ACA, Kaiser Health News reports.
Under the ACA, health plans must cover 10 essential health benefits, including maternity care, mental health treatment and prescription drugs. They also cannot refuse coverage to or increase the price of coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and the policies must cap consumers' annual out-of-pocket expenses at lower levels than before.
According to KHN, calls to insurers in several states showed that many companies have sent such notices. For example, Florida Blue is ending about 300,000 policies, nearly 80% of its individual policies in the state. In addition, Kaiser Permanente in California will drop about 50% of its policies and Highmark in Pittsburgh will drop nearly 20%.
Spokespersons for some of the insurers said coverage will be more comprehensive, which could mean higher costs, though some maintain that the increase in cost to most consumers will be minimal (Gorman/Appleby, Kaiser Health News, 10/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.