Tag: health insurance

#Obamacare Sign-ups Near 500,000 in 1st Week of 2014 Enrollment

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About half a million people selected a health insurance plan in the first week of the 2015 enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new federal report that underscores huge progress since last year, when website problems made signing up for coverage nearly impossible.

From Nov. 15 to Nov. 21, the Department of Health and Human Services announced, 462,125 people signed up for a plan through HealthCare.gov, the federally run insurance marketplace that serves 37 states nationwide.

Tens of thousands of additional people signed up for coverage on state-run marketplaces in the remaining 13 states, including California, Maryland and Connecticut, and the District of Columbia.  California reported last week that more than 11,000 people had selected plans in the first four days of open enrollment.

The HealthCare.gov total — which is split roughly evenly between new enrollees and people renewing coverage they had in 2014 — is a major advance from last year, when the website did not work for more than a month.

Just 106,000 people signed up for coverage in the first month of open enrollment last year.

This year, it appears that the site is working far better. Administration officials said Wednesday it had not crashed since it opened, though it had twice directed users to an online “waiting room” that is deployed when there is high volume or other technical issues with the site.

In total, more than 3.7 million users visited HealthCare.gov in the first week of the new enrollment period, according to the health agency.

And in another indication of improvement, wait times at call centers around the country averaged only a little more than three minutes.

Still, it remains unclear whether the Obama administration will be able to hit enrollment targets by the time the sign-up period closes in 2 1/2 months.

The tally released Wednesday counts only plan selections, not the number of people who have paid premiums, which is usually lower. Consumers have until the middle of December to pay in order to guarantee they have coverage starting Jan. 1. Continue reading “#Obamacare Sign-ups Near 500,000 in 1st Week of 2014 Enrollment”

Gallup Study Gives Obamacare A Thumbs-Up

US President Barack Obama gives the thumbs-up to a crowd WASHINGTON (AP) — A growing share of Americans got health insurance as sign-up season for President Barack Obama‘s health care law came to a close last month, a major survey released Monday has found.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index provides independent validation for White House claims that the law is expanding access, particularly for working people with no coverage on the job. But the improvement, while substantial, doesn’t appear as large as some of the numbers claimed by the law’s supporters.

Gallup found that the share of adults without health insurance shrank from 17.1 percent at the end of last year to 15.6 percent for the first three months of 2014.  The decline of 1.5 percentage points would translate roughly to more than 3.5 million people gaining coverage. The trend accelerated as the March 31 enrollment deadline loomed.

“The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as `Obamacare,’ appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance,” said Gallup’s analysis of the findings.

The survey is important because it combines the quick turnaround of media polls with extensive outreach usually seen in government research. Gallup interviewed more than 43,500 adults, or more than 40 times the number in a typical national media poll.  Coming a week after the close of the health care law’s first enrollment season, Gallup’s numbers suggest a more modest impact on coverage than statistics cited by the Obama administration.

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The administration says more than 7 million have signed up for subsidized private plans through new insurance markets. Additionally, 3 million previously uninsured people gained coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion.  Millions more remain potentially eligible for marketplace coverage under various extensions issued by the administration. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said this weekend on CBS that 200,000 people who had started applications but weren’t able to finish by the deadline got signed up later in the week.

Continue reading “Gallup Study Gives Obamacare A Thumbs-Up”

As Deadline Looms, Obamacare Has Already Led to Health Coverage for 9.5 Million

obamaWASHINGTON — President Barack Obama‘s healthcare law, despite a rocky rollout and determined opposition from critics, already has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century, national surveys and enrollment data show.

As the law’s initial enrollment period closes, at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage. Some have done so through marketplaces created by the law, some through other private insurance and others through Medicaid, which has expanded under the law in about half the states.  The tally draws from a review of state and federal enrollment reports, surveys and interviews with insurance executives and government officials nationwide.

The Affordable Care Act still faces major challenges, particularly the risk of premium hikes next year that could drive away newly insured customers. But the increased coverage so far amounts to substantial progress toward one of the law’s principal goals and is the most significant expansion since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

The millions of newly insured also create a politically important constituency that may complicate any future Republican repeal efforts.  Precise figures on national health coverage will not be available for months. But available data indicate:

• At least 6 million people have signed up for health coverage on the new marketplaces, about one-third of whom were previously uninsured.

• A February survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found 27% of new enrollees were previously uninsured, but newer survey data from the nonprofit Rand Corp. and reports from marketplace officials in several states suggest that share increased in March.

• At least 4.5 million previously uninsured adults have signed up for state Medicaid programs, according to Rand’s unpublished survey data, which were shared with The Times. That tracks with estimates from Avalere Health, a consulting firm that is closely following the law’s implementation.

• An additional 3 million young adults have gained coverage in recent years through a provision of the law that enables dependent children to remain on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26, according to national health insurance surveys from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• About 9 million people have bought health plans directly from insurers, instead of using the marketplaces, Rand found. The vast majority of these people were previously insured.

• Fewer than a million people who had health plans in 2013 are now uninsured because their plans were canceled for not meeting new standards set by the law, the Rand survey indicates.

Republican critics of the law have suggested that the cancellations last fall have led to a net reduction in coverage.

That is not supported by survey data or insurance companies, many of which report they have retained the vast majority of their 2013 customers by renewing old policies, which is permitted in about half the states, or by moving customers to new plans.

Continue reading “As Deadline Looms, Obamacare Has Already Led to Health Coverage for 9.5 Million”

Obamacare More Affordable Than Anticipated: State Health Exchange Rates Lower Than Expected

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President Obama spoke about lower insurance rates at the White House on July 18.
(Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)

WASHINGTON — As state health exchanges continue to announce lower-than-expected rates for health insurance, experts say both state and regional issues play a part in how much a consumer will pay for insurance beginning in January.  Several factors come into play: a state’s regulations, how many insurers will participate in the state and federal exchanges, and what kind of a risk those insurers are willing to take.

“There is tremendous existing variation within the rates in the states now,” said Sherry Glied, professor of health policy and economics at Columbia University and former assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services. “It’s hard to compare the old rates to the new.”  Maryland’s insurance commissioner said Friday that the expected new rates for residents who will need to buy insurance starting Oct. 1 are up to 33% lower than expected, and that coverage for a 21-year-old non-smoker could cost as low as $93 a month.

In Connecticut, insurer HealthCT announced plans that would drop an average of 36% from its original proposal in the individual market; and Nevada will sell plans to young adults to cover catastrophic health situations for less than $100 a month.  An HHS report released this month showed that silver health exchange plans — the lower cost plans that uninsured people are more likely to buy — are an average 18% lower than anticipated in the 11 states the department studied.  “We know the rates are coming in lower than we expected,” Glied said. “They’re coming in well below the Congressional Budget Office’s estimated rates, which people thought were optimistic.”

These new rates apply only to those who are currently uninsured and who will be buying insurance through the state or federal exchanges. A health exchange or marketplace is a website that allows consumers to choose from several different private insurers.  Under the 2010 health care law, Americans who buy health insurance on the state exchanges can choose from four types of plans — bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze has the lowest levels of coverage and cost; platinum is the elite and most expensive. Industry surveys and records from Massachusetts, which enacted a health care law in 2006, show the overwhelming majority of people buy either bronze or silver plans.

Continue reading “Obamacare More Affordable Than Anticipated: State Health Exchange Rates Lower Than Expected”