7.3M U.S. Residents Have Paid Exchange Plan Premiums, CMS Says
On Thursday, the Obama administration announced that 7.3 million people who signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges paid their premiums, effectively completing their enrollment, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 9/18).
The figure includes all those who completed the process by mid-August, including those who enrolled during special enrollment periods because of qualifying life changes (Haberkorn, Politico, 9/18).
The number is short of the eight million enrollees the administration had reported in mid-April. During a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said the new number is lower because "[i]ndividuals may have gotten employer-sponsored insurance or found out they were eligible for Medicaid, and some individuals may have decided not to go forward and pay" (New York Times, 9/18).
She said the administration currently does not know how many individuals failed to pay their premiums, but it should have such information by the end of the year (Baker/Novack, National Journal, 9/18). She added that some might have joined "the ranks of the uninsured" (New York Times, 9/18).
Still, Tavenner said she "think[s] 7.3 million is a strong number" (Ferris, The Hill, 9/18). She added that the "vast majority of consumers who gained private insurance coverage through the [exchanges] are paying $100 or less per month" for their plans and "nearly half of individuals selecting plans with tax credits in the federally facilitated marketplace -- specifically, 46% -- were able to get covered for $50 per month or less" (New York Times, 9/18).
Overall, Tavenner said, "I'm very pleased to know that we have payment levels of 90%" (Adams, CQ Roll Call, 9/18).
Still No Way To Track Enrollees
According to the Times, federal computer systems are still not able to track the number of enrollees (New York Times, 9/18). Instead, the administration relies on monthly reports from insurers.
A CMS official during the hearing said that recent reports have stabilized, in comparison with earlier reports that had varied widely (Politico, 9/18). Tavenner said the numbers will continue to change slightly as some new individuals sign up for coverage and others leave their exchange plans (CQ Roll Call, 9/18).
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said, "For the past five months, the administration has been silent on enrollment details for the [ACA], and now we know why: the number was going down." He added, "Sadly, this comes as no surprise."
However, Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Vice President Larry Levitt said the announcement proves that "fears about large numbers on enrollees failing to pay their premiums were unfounded" (Politico, 9/18).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.