Now that the first enrollment period is long closed and health exchanges have done their part in enrolling more than the set target, Obamacare is cruising fairly smoothly, with minor anomalies here and there. As we draw close to the next open enrollment period beginning in mid-November, let’s take a look at the major happenings post the 8 million enrollment feat, and what does ACA have in store for Americans in the near future. In the first part of this series, we are going to cover the major developments; figures and trends that have come up post enrollment closure. The second part is going to delve into the trends that will take hold in 2015.
1) The mix of uninsured and previously insured in the new insurance market is nearly equal – Obamacare’s original push was toward providing people with no health insurance a chance to gain insurance at subsidized rates. So, although repeat buyers were not dissuaded from the marketplaces, a good chunk of the push was reserved for people with no health insurance prior to PPACA rollout. The administration made strong headway by bringing in roughly about 50 percent enrollments from people without health insurance, translating to a figure grossly around 4 million. As ACA matures, the administration expects to cover more uninsured, roughly 26 million by 2017 end.
2) 15 percent of enrollees still need to pay their binder payment – Binder payment is the money paid toward the first month’s health insurance premium and is a financial commitment made during enrollment. This number means the enrollments still haven’t gone through and are hanging in a lurch. For instance, in the state of California, the non-payment rate is 13 percent, and for Georgia, the number could be about 50 percent. A closer analysis is being conducted in this area to determine the causal factors in this enrollment gap.
3) Health individuals in 18-34 years of age signed up, but average age still on high side – When nearly 30 percent of the 8 million enrollments came from the healthy 18-34 years age group, the administration had a reason to rejoice. For Obamacare to be successful and have controlled premiums throughout the operation of the law, roughly 40 percent of enrollments should have been from healthy individuals. The 30 percent enrollments, with roughly 35 percent coming from people below 35 years of age, is a little short than the target, but is still enough. This factor leaves average age on the higher side, but still mitigates the acute chance of rising premiums for the time being.
4) New Obamacare enrollees are not happy with the upgraded health plans – Compared with the insurance plans they have had over the years, new enrollees are not particularly happy with the new health insurance plans. This is a major setback for the administration, which has pushed these health plans as better insurance with wider coverage nets. A worrying problem which people are facing is finding the combination of hospitals and doctors that both fall in their coverage net. Patients are either unable to find their preferred doctor or hospital, leading them to face a financial liability if they decide to go out of network. The problem of reimbursements to doctors and hospitals is the key factor behind this narrowing of networks, and the administration is pursuing this issue to get things in line for the newly insured.
5) The administration might begin working on bringing better plan alternatives into the mix – Although the enrollment numbers are pretty impressive and the administration is gaining strong traction from these results, there is a lot of scope for improvement and the officials know it. Better plan alternatives are being worked out at the moment, especially for areas and demographics that haven’t shown good traction. As these plans are laid out, better penetration can be expected in markets where headway isn’t substantial. Obamacare is working, but the driving reasons of covering every uninsured will not be sidelined in the wake of recent success.
Post 8 million enrollments, the action points for Obamacare proponents have increased multifold. Other than getting more Americans under the insurance net, the administration now needs to focus on providing better benefits to those who have already joined ranks of Obamacare-insured. Before the next enrollment window opens, these action points are going to be crucial for the success of the second enrollment period.