Secretary Burwell Reflects on Open Enrollment and Looks Ahead

Although HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell touted the success of this past open enrollment period and the affordability of quality health plans, she declined to comment on King v. Burwell during her keynote speech at America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)'s National Health Policy Conference.

Although HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell touted the success of this past open enrollment period and the affordability of quality health plans, she declined to comment on King v. Burwell during her keynote speech at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)’s National Health Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 11-12.

Secretary Burwell announced that during the final day of open enrollment on February 15, 2015, more Americans signed up for health insurance than any other day during this or the last enrollment period.

“With tax credits, quality plans are affordable and nearly 7.7 million, or 87% of those who selected a plan through HealthCare.gov, qualified for an average tax credit of $263 per month,” she said. “With that financial assistance, more than half, 55%, paid $100 or less per month after tax credits.”

However, Secretary Burwell did not mention the Supreme Court case that could take away tax credits for all of those individuals in the next open enrollment period should the justices vote to side with the plaintiffs and remove financial assistance in the federal marketplace.

Possibly the only reference she made to the case was when she said that the marketplace worked and with millions of Americans purchasing coverage it was clear this was a product they want and need.

“The Affordable Care Act is working and consumers don’t want these benefits taken away,” she said.

There is still work to be done, Secretary Burwell acknowledged. To ensure the healthcare system is working for everyone, they need to find better ways to empower patients, help providers work more effectively, and keep costs under control.

“At the end of the day, we all benefit from a system that delivers better care,” she said. “A system that’s smarter about how we spend our healthcare dollars. A system that keeps our population healthy.”

HHS plans to build that improved healthcare system by improving healthcare delivery, how providers are paid, and how information is distributed. The agency is looking for participation from the industry and the public to match the goals set by Medicare.

One more area that Secretary Burwell highlighted is educating patients on how to use their coverage. Patients who use the tools available to keep themselves healthy don’t just have better outcomes, but they cost less, she said.

“As we continue to get more Americans covered we have to make sure that we don’t just have insurance, but that these folks have and know how to use that insurance,” she said. “And that means connecting people to care they need, teaching them to understand their benefits and bills, and giving them the tools to make health a priority.”