What Kinds of Health Insurance Should Millennial Employers Offer?

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Despite threats, Obamacare still winning.

WASHINGTON—Nearly six million people have signed up for 2016 insurance coverage on the federal exchanges since the November start of open enrollment, a pace that Obama administration officials said Friday outstrips last year’s and indicates the health law’s success.

Government health officials crowed Friday over a big surge of new customers to the federal Obamacare marketplace, which significantly increased the total number of people signed up in insurance plans compared to the same time last year. By Thursday night, slightly fewer than 6 million people — 40 percent of them new customers — had selected a health plan for 2016 from HealthCare.gov, the exchange that sells private insurance in 38 states, officials said. “We’re obviously pleased,” said Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator of the federal agency that oversees Obamacare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “It’s clear now that many people have been waiting to purchase coverage until this enrollment cycle.” HealthCare.gov’s tally does not include enrollment numbers from the 13 other Obamacare exchanges that are being run by individual states and the District of Columbia. “There was an unprecedented amount of traffic at the call center and an incredible amount of activity on HealthCare.gov,” in the days leading up to Thursday, which was the deadline for enrolling in coverage that will be effective Jan. 1, said Slavitt. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, he noted, the uninsured rate in the United States is now below 10% and far fewer Americans are “one illness or accident” away from financial ruin.

While retaining consumers is important, administration officials need to attract uninsured consumers to meet and hopefully exceed the modest goal they set of 10 million people insured on the exchanges at the end of 2016. When the law passed, more than 20 million people were expected to have coverage through the exchange by 2016, according to initial projections from the Congressional Budget Office. On Friday, the administration said it wasn’t ready to comment on whether the 10 million projection will be revised. “I am still feeling concerned about low enrollment this year,” said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at Avalere Health. “Surely, the administration will hit its 10 million goal, but I am not sure enrollment will be a lot higher. Those who aren’t insured at that point — and aren’t eligible for a hardship exemption — will owe tax penalty in April 2017 that is $695 per person to a maximum of $2,085 per household or 2.5% of income, whichever is higher.

The provision restricts Obamacare’s “risk corridors,” which give money to insurers who are losing money because they have too many sick people on their rolls. Kevin Counihan, CEO of Healthcare.gov, credits the surge with people’s desire to have insurance, but also how affordable they are finding plans if they receive tax credits, which about 80% of people do. There was a rush of customers in recent weeks, prompting the administration to extend by two days the Dec. 15 deadline for consumers to sign up for coverage that starts in the New Year. Asked Friday if the number of current sign-ups has led officials to raise their enrollment target, Slavitt said, that the information is “too new” and “too fresh” to make such an adjustment.

The administration’s original modest goal was an acknowledgment of the tough job it faces in wooing people who have so far held off from getting insurance. He noted that health officials are “targeting a tougher segment of the population to attract,” a reference to the 10.5 million or so eligible uninsured people, many of whom are low income and have little familiarity with buying and using health insurance.

About half of the two million callers had to leave their names to be called back and Slavitt said call center employees had attempted to reach all of them by now. Employers also haven’t stopped offering coverage, as opponents of the law had expected, which would have led to more demand for plans on the exchange. About 7 out of 10 returning customers, officials have said, would be able to enroll in health plans that would cost them $75 or less after those subsidies are factored in. People who don’t have health coverage next year are subject to a potential Obamacare penalty, which is the higher of $695 per adult, or 2.5 percent of household income. But the waits were getting kind of long, and on the telephone helpline, which is very popular, the waits were as long as 22 minutes earlier this week.

One of the government officials who was talking about this today said that they would’ve needed 72,000 people answering the phones to make the waits at the normal amount, you know, just to answer when people called, and that’s why they had to extend the deadline. You know, something like Amazon, they would’ve been able to handle the volume, which was, you know, in the 150,000 to 200,000 people shopping at one time range.

But that plan won’t go into effect until March, and they may face a penalty for missing those two months if they have no insurance for January and February. KODJAK: Well, I don’t think it’s going to have any effect on people buying insurance and the marketplace specifically, but these were the taxes that were supposed to pay for the expansion of Medicaid and to pay for the subsidies that make some of these policies affordable to people.

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