HHS Says Insurer Participation in ACA Exchanges To Increase by 25%
Insurer participation in the Affordable Care Act's exchanges will increase by about 25% for the next open enrollment period, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Tuesday, the New York Times reports.
According to HHS data, the number of insurance companies offering coverage in the 36 states that rely on the federal health insurance exchange will increase by about 30%, from 191 in the first open enrollment period to 248 in the second period, which begins on Nov. 15. Meanwhile, the number of insurers offering plans in the states and the District of Columbia that operate their own exchanges will increase by about 10%, from 61 to 67 (Pear, New York Times, 9/23).
Overall, 13 insurers that offered exchange plans in 2014 have decided not to do so for 2015, while 77 new insurers will be entering the exchanges (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 9/23).
Most States See Increases
According to the data, some states will see notable increases in plan options. For example:
- Alabama, Maine, Mississippi and North Carolina, which each had just two insurers participate last year, will each have three participate in the next open enrollment period;
- Arkansas and Montana, which both had three participants in 2014, will each have four participants in 2015;
- New Hampshire and West Virginia, which each had just one insurer participate in their states during the initial open enrollment, will have five and two insurers, respectively, in the next open enrollment period;
- The number of insurers participating in Indiana's exchange will increase from four to nine; and
- The number of insurers participating in Missouri's exchange will increase from four to eight (New York Times, 9/23).
Meanwhile, California will be the only state to see a net loss in the number of insurers participating in its exchange, dropping from 12 to 10 (Wall Street Journal, 9/23). Nine states will have the same number of exchange participants (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 9/23).
Caveats About the Data
According to the Times, the data include insurers that are selling plans in at least one area of a state, but do not break down how many different coverage options will be sold in every area of a state. This means that consumers in urban areas could see their coverage options increase, while consumer living in rural areas could see their options remain unchanged (New York Times, 9/23).
Further, the data are based on state proposals that have all not been finalized. The numbers are based on filings that occurred by mid-August and do not contain information from seven states (Wall Street Journal, 9/23). HHS officials did not indicate when they would have a final count of participating insurers and did not provide details on premium prices (Millman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 9/23).
During a speech at the Brookings Institution, Burwell said, "When you consider the law through the lens of affordability, access and quality, the evidence points to a clear conclusion. The [ACA] is working -- and families, businesses, and taxpayers are better off as a result" (Viebeck, The Hill, 9/23). Officials said that the increased competition in the exchanges will help to curb premium prices (New York Times, 9/23).
An HHS official said the increase in insurers participating in the exchanges is "evidence that these are attractive marketplaces, and just from our casual review of investor communications by the firms, these are being seen as growth opportunities" (Morgan/Humer, Reuters, 9/23).
Meanwhile, industry experts noted that the increased participation shows that the ACA is a permanent fixture. PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute Managing Director Ceci Connolly said more insurers than expected have signed up to sell plans in the exchanges, showing the ACA is here to stay.
Brookings Institution economist Stuart Butler added that "the insurance industry is now moving from uncertainty (with the politics as well just the market uncertainties) to figuring out how to design and price products for a new health system" (Haberkorn/Norman, Politico, 9/23).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.