Health plan exchange draws 110000 new NC customers

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

75,000 in SC apply for health insurance.

About 110,000 North Carolinians bought new health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange during the first month of 2015 enrollment, according to numbers released Tuesday by the U.S. Many businesses in low-wage industries have hired more part-time workers and cut the hours of full-timers recently to soften the impact of new health law requirements that take effect Thursday, some consultants say.Researchers from the Urban Institute have recently released the results of a new study that has been published online in the Health Affairs journal, showing that while many had expected insurance trends from employers to include the dropping of coverage for their workers as a result of the health care reform, this has not been the case. The strategies have had only a modest impact on job growth, which has accelerated substantially this year, but could take a somewhat bigger toll next year as firms gear up for an expanded health care mandate in 2016.

South Carolina residents can choose from 52 options between four insurance companies: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, BlueChoice Health Plan, Consumers’ Choice Health Insurance Co. and Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas. “We’re reaching out to communities statewide and are seeing steady traffic in our stores, at our agent open houses, in our classes, and at our mobile sales units,” said BlueCross President Jim Deyling. People who paid for marketplace policies last year but took no action were automatically re-enrolled Dec. 16-18, so many of them won’t show up until the second month of statistics. We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before February 15, but this is an encouraging start.” Data compiled by the department found 43 percent of individuals in the state re-enrolled in a Marketplace plan for 2015 and that 57 percent signed up for the first time. The health coverage mandate for individuals took effect last January, but the Obama administration pushed back the effective date for businesses in 2013. The 2015 national average is 87 percent. “It looks like we’re going to be a national leader again,” said Adam Linker, health policy analyst for the nonprofit N.C.

Ninety-four percent of businesses with at least 100 workers and 55% of all firms already offer health benefits to at least some employees, according to Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust. In the marketplace’s first year, about 119,000 people selected policies in the marketplace, but only about 85,000 paid their first premiums, according to the S.C. That would have presented a very unfavorable environment for the government, as the reduction of employer-sponsored coverage would lead to a higher expense for the government. The reason is that there would be a larger number of lower-wage workers that would qualify for subsidies when shopping for their policies on the exchange. Dec. 15 was the deadline to sign up for coverage that kicks in Jan. 1, though the federal government offered a little extra time for those who had trouble getting through to the help line as the deadline neared.

Michelle Neblett, senior director of labor and workforce policy for the National Restaurant Association, says many restaurants are being more cautious about boosting the workweek of part-timers to 30 hours or more, doling out such increases to reward top performers. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees also already have felt some impact from the health law, says a new survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business trade group.

In North Carolina, those whose income falls below the federal poverty level ($11,670 for an individual, $23,850 for a household of four) can’t get help buying insurance. Those that provide health insurance now must offer coverage for mental health and other services — unless they’re grandfathered under existing plans — boosting premiums, says Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB director of federal policy. The federal plan called for states to expand Medicaid to cover low-income adults, but North Carolina and 22 other states have declined to do so, citing costs and questions about the value of expansion. Mike DeVoge, owner of a 12-employee marina in Conneaut Lake, Pa., says costs for the six workers who are eligible for insurance recently increased 40% and are set to rise another 60% in 2016.

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