Lewis & Ellis Inc.

Consumers eligible for insurance marketplaces slow to get involved

Health Care Reform and Policy
by Tom Handley
Health insurers say exchange participation too costly for them
Health insurers say exchange participation too costly for them

Millions of Americans are eligible for health insurance on the federally-run exchanges, but the percent exploring their options continues to disappoint and is running lower than initial projections. However, those that have are largely younger consumers who are considered vital to the success of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's coverage mandate.

Through the end of last year, only about 25 percent of all people who might have been eligible to buy their coverage through Healthcare.gov had actually gone onto the site to see whether they could find affordable options, according to a new survey from the Commonwealth Fund. And while that was up from 17 percent in October, the first month in which the exchanges were actually open, even if they remained extremely difficult to navigate, it still marks a fairly low number, especially considering consumers were required to have some sort of coverage by Jan. 1.

Interestingly, though, slightly more than two out of every five visitors to the site from the start of October to the end of the year were between the ages of 19 and 34, and 77 percent of everyone who logged on said they thought they were in good, very good, or even excellent health, the report said. That may actually be great news for the Obama administration because, despite the low numbers for actual enrollment, young healthy people were generally considered the cornerstone on which the success of the exchanges would be built, and many early polls showed low engagement among these people in particular.

Some issues still remain
Interestingly, 59 percent of people who were likely to be eligible for coverage on the exchanges either hadn't visited the site or hadn't enrolled at all, but believed they would try to do so before the March 31, 2014, deadline by which they are now required to sign up, the report said. On the other hand, only 51 percent of people said the marketplace was very or at least somewhat easy to navigate when it came to comparing costs in December. While that's up from 37 percent in October, it's still a significant portion of all visitors who may be having some difficulties.

Health insurers may be able to reach out to people who are still struggling with the controversial site as a means of helping them to find affordable coverage that works for them before the date by which they have to be enrolled.



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