Insurance Exchange Enrollment Reaches 3.3M, HHS Data Show
On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced that nearly 3.3 million U.S. residents have enrolled in private coverage through the state or federal health insurance exchanges since Oct. 1, 2013, Reuters reports.
The report includes enrollment data from Oct. 1, 2013, to Feb. 1 (Morgan, Reuters, 2/12). The figures include both U.S. residents who have and have not made an initial premium payment (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 2/12).
Overall, the data showed 1.4 million U.S. residents had selected plans through state-run exchanges between October 2013 and January, while 1.9 million chose plans through the federal exchange. Officials said that enrollment for January was slightly above 1.1 million through the state and federal exchanges (Pear, New York Times, 2/12). According to the report, the figures represent a 53% increase in enrollment between December 2013 and January ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 2/12).
Administration officials said the latest enrollment figures bring the total number of enrollees in both private plans and Medicaid to 9.6 million since open enrollment began on Oct. 1, 2013 (Reuters, 2/12).
Young Adult Enrollments Rise
The report showed a slight increase in enrollment among young adults, a group considered vital to keeping premium rates low in the exchanges, the New York Times reports (New York Times, 2/12)
For example, about 27% of January enrollees were between ages 18 and 34, compared with 24% for the previous three months combined. Despite the increase, both figures are significantly below the 40% threshold that research has suggested is needed to help keep exchange premiums stable (Goldstein, Washington Post, 2/12).
The number of young adults enrolling in coverage also continued to lag behind enrollment among older U.S. residents, according to the Times. For example, the data showed 53% of enrollees in January were between the ages of 45 and 64, while individuals ages 55 to 64 accounted for 31% of new enrollments (New York Times, 2/12).
The data showed about 82% of exchange enrollees qualify for federal subsidies to help offset the cost of coverage (Reuters, 2/12).
However, the report did not specify how many of the new enrollees previously were uninsured (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 2/12).
Enrollment Surpasses Target for January, Still Behind Overall
The 1.14 million enrollment figure for January makes it the first month that enrollment surpassed federal expectations, the Post reports (Washington Post, 2/12).
According to "Wonkblog," CMS in September 2013 projected that about one million people would enroll in coverage in January ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 2/12)
However, cumulative enrollment continues to fall short of the Obama administration's original goal of enrolling 4.4 million people by January.
White House officials said they expect a surge in applications before the March 31 deadline to enroll in coverage (New York Times, 2/13).
Calif. Enrollment Strong, but Most States Falling Behind
Among states, huge disparities are emerging in how many residents are enrolling in coverage, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
For example, Connecticut has enrolled more than twice the number of residents it had been projected to enroll by the end of January, while Massachusetts has only enrolled 5% of its target.
Other states that are meeting or exceeding expectations include:
- New York, which has signed up more than 1.5 times its goal, with 211,290 enrollees;
- California has met 90% of its goal, with 728,086 residents signed up; and
- Texas, which has met 53% of its goal.
According to the AP/Bee, some of the states struggling to meet enrollment targets include:
- Oregon; and
- The District of Columbia (Vineys/Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/13).
Experts Weigh In
While some health policy experts say the data suggest the Obama administration has avoided a potential "meltdown" in the wake of the rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov, others caution that there remains a lot of work to do by the end of March to get the right balance of customers, Politico reports.
Jon Kingsdale, a consultant who led the Massachusetts health insurance exchange, said the new numbers are "very encouraging" because it means enrollment did not slow down in January, as many analysts predicted. He noted that the data also suggest that enrollment could remain steady in February and then surge in March.
Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, also sounded optimistic. She said, "Enrollment appears on-track to reach roughly six million by the end of March."
Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation was more cautious, saying the Obama administration and insurers would need to improve outreach to reach the six million figure (Nather, Politico, 2/12).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.