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Healthcare.gov enrollment to be lower than expected?

Health Care Reform and Policy
by Cabe Chadick
Doctors, consumers concerned about changing health insurance landscape
Doctors, consumers concerned about changing health insurance landscape

The open enrollment period for the Healthcare.gov and associated health insurance exchange sites begins for 2015 and many experts have turned their attentions to the number of people who are expected to sign up for the sites this year. However, it seems that recent estimates from the Obama administration will fall short of those initially advanced by outside parties.

For instance, back in April, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that as many as 13 million people would be signed up for Healthcare.gov by the end of this year's open enrollment period, but the most recent data from the Obama administration suggests that it will not meet anything resembling that number, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Instead, the White House believes that a maximum of about 9.9 million or so will be signed up when the enrollment period comes to a close.

Part of the reason for this discrepancy may lie in Medicaid eligibility numbers, the report said. Of the 32 million people across the country who are still without health insurance, more than half (17 million) are actually eligible for Medicaid, which typically makes them ineligible for the exchanges. 

What else is problematic?
Moreover, though, the administration has likewise had to downwardly revise the number of people who were in good standing with their Healthcare.gov-purchased coverage, as some 200,000 more had fallen behind on payments than originally expected. That brought enrollment to this point down to 7.1 million from the previous estimate of 7.3 million.

In addition, another 120,000 or so Americans had to have their eligibility for tax breaks on insurance purchased through the exchanges cut off, because they did not reply to repeated requests from the Obama administration to clarify certain errors regarding their personal or financial information, the report said. Further, 112,000 more people were cut out of the program altogether because the government could not determine whether they were living in the U.S. legally at all.

Insurers that want to expand business may be wise to look into the ways in which they can better reach the many Americans who fall through the cracks in this burgeoning health care reform system. If they can provide reasonable, affordable options to these people for whom cost may be such a big issue, they may be able to provide significant benefit both to themselves and their new clients going forward.

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