FOCUS OF THE WEEK
Nearing Deadline, Exchanges Fail to Meet Expectations
March 7, 2014, 08:03:01 AM
Katie Sullivan
Open enrollment for the 2014 state and federal health insurance exchanges will end this month, but various findings contest their anticipated success.

One study, published by the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), determined that despite early administrative claims, the exchanges did not yield more choice nor did they lower prices. David Hogberg, PhD, senior fellow for health care policy at NCPPR, compared the insurance policy options of a 27-year-old single individual and of a 57-year-old couple. He said that in both cases, private websites such as eHealthinsurance.com and Finder.healthcare.gov had significantly more choices than did the exchanges. Dr Hogberg also noted that private policy options cost less than the even the lowest-priced policy options on the exchanges.

“A 27-year-old male who paid full price on an exchange (ie, he did not receive a subsidy) had, on average, 32 cheaper policies to choose from on eHealth and 38 on Finder. For a 27-year-old female, eHealth had, on average, 18 cheaper polices and Finder had 20 cheaper policies compared to the exchanges,” he said. “A 57-year-old couple that received no subsidy on the exchange could have found cheaper polices in all of the cities examined. The average number of cheaper polices on eHealth was 29 and for Finder it was 28. There were cheaper policies on eHealth and Finder in every city for a 57-year-old couple when compared to the exchanges. Atlanta, Georgia had the greatest number of policies that cost less than the lowest-price exchange policy. There were 56 polices that cost less on eHealth and 112 on Finder.”

Cities in 13 states were examined, including: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In addition to the less-than-stellar exchange outcomes, another recent report from Avalere Health suggests that while more than 8.9 million people were eligible for a subsidy for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the actual number of those who signed up for coverage is estimated at between 2.4 and 3.5 million.

While Medicaid enrollment does not end on Match 31, the group estimates that only 5 million Americans are likely to join the program this year.

“One major goal of the [ACA] was to reduce the number of uninsured, and Medicaid expansion is a key part of that,” said Caroline Pearson, vice president of Avalere. “These numbers show that the administration has a ways to go toward its enrollment goal and will need to conduct sustained outreach and education efforts to draw more people into coverage throughout the year.”

Around the Web

ObamaCare Exchanges: Less Choice, Higher Prices [NCPRR]

Lower Medicaid Signups Seen in Health Law Study [The Washington Post]

Fewer than 2 million Signed up for Medicaid Under the Health Law, Report Says [The Washington Post]