Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The commercial para-universe to the ACA exchanges keeps expanding

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Georgia looking peachy to web-brokers

More or less simultaneously with CMS’s announcement that 15.3 million people had enrolled in health plans via HealthCare.gov through December 15, HealthSherpa announced that 6.1 million of those enrollments were effected through its platform.

I’d like to revisit what that market share tells us about how people are getting coverage through the ACA marketplace today. For background, a couple of points from a recent post:

  • According to a CMS presentation to brokers, in HealthCare.gov states in 2023, 71% of active enrollees (new enrollees and active renewers) were assisted by brokers. 74% of new enrollees — 2.2 million out of 3.0 million — were broker-assisted. HealthCare.gov states accounted for 75% of total enrollment. In total, brokers enrolled 6.8 million of the 9.6 million who actively enrolled. (Of the 2.5 million who were passively re-enrolled, I don’t know how many were broker-assisted, initially, or in plan year 2023.)

  • In HealthCare.gov states, brokers rely heavily on commercial Direct Enrollment (DE) or Enhanced Direct Enrollment (EDE) platforms, which can process enrollments with subsidies (EDE directly; DE via a redirect to hc.gov for the application processing and then a return to the DE platform for plan selection). 81% of active broker-assistance enrollments are via DE or EDE, according to the CMS presentation. In 2023, more than half of enrollments on HealthCare.gov, excluding auto re-enrollments, were via DE/EDE (5.5 million). By my count of 62 EDE entities, thirteen are web brokers, the rest are insurers. The dominant EDE is HealthSherpa, which just announced that it has already processed 2 million enrollments for 2024. In 2023, HealthSherpa claimed to have accounted for 35% of HealthCare.gov state enrollments; the company seems on track to exceed that share this year.

HealthSherpa’s preferred metric for its market share in states using HealthCare.gov (the federal platform, used by 32 states) is its percentage of active enrollments -- that is, new enrollees and re-enrollees who update their accounts and make a deliberate choice of plan. Those who are passively auto re-enrolled are not credited to the platform that initially enrolled them. If OEP 2024’s auto re-enrollment percentage matches that of 2023, (21%), the 15.3 million enrollment total includes 3.2 million auto re-enrollees. That leaves HealthSherpa with just about a 50% share of active enrollment in HealthCare.gov states through December 15.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

A "premium alignment" bill advances in NJ legislature

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Will NJ's ACA marketplace glow as goldenly as its rest areas?

In June, I flagged a bill introduced in the New Jersey legislature this past spring, S3896/A5626, that would require silver plans in the state’s ACA marketplace to be priced roughly on par with gold plans in year 1 and on par with platinum plans in year two — reshaping a market in which gold plans have been priced out of reach for more than 98% of enrollees.

The bill’s logic is simple (though it has a complicated back story): On average, silver plans have a higher actuarial value than gold plans, since most silver plan enrollees qualify for the Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) that attaches only to silver plans.

The bill was abruptly posted early this month for a December 11 hearing in the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, a committee chaired by one of the bill’s lead sponsors, John McKeon. The bill passed out of committee with no amendments on an 11-0 vote with one abstention. That’s first step in a gauntlet of three Assembly and two Senate committees’ consideration.

I testified in favor on behalf of BlueWave New Jersey, a progressive state advocacy group, along with Laura Waddell of New Jersey Citizen Action. My testimony is below.

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December 11, 2023

A5626/S3896 would correct a severe pricing imbalance in New Jersey’s ACA marketplace that weakens coverage for middle-income enrollees in health plans offered on GetCoveredNJ.

New Jersey is unique among U.S. state marketplaces in that in New Jersey gold-level plans – the metal choice that offers a coverage level closest to the average employer-sponsored plans – are priced out of reach for almost all enrollees.  In New Jersey in 2023, just 1.5% of on-exchange enrollees selected gold plans, versus a national average of 11.9% (see CMS Public Use Files, Note 3).  Nationally, according to tables published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the lowest-cost gold plan premium in each state market is 4% higher than the lowest-cost silver premium in 2024. In New Jersey, the lowest-cost gold premium is priced 37% above the lowest-cost silver plan.

Friday, December 08, 2023

Still growing: OEP 2024 in the ACA marketplace

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CMS’s Week 5 snapshot for the 2024 Open Enrollment Period (OEP) in the ACA marketplace shows 7.3 million active enrollments (new enrollments and active re-enrollments) — a stunning 39% year-over-year increase, according to Charles Gaba’s swift compilation. The snapshot is through December 2 for 32 states using HealthCare.gov and through November 25 for 19 state-based marketplaces (SBMs). New enrollment is up 44%, and active re-enrollment is up 37%, per Gaba. (Passive auto re-enrollment is reported at different times by different exchanges, and some SBM auto re-enrollment tallies are included separately in the snapshot.)

For the year-over year comparison, Gaba has helpfully adjusted for an extra day included in the 2023 Week 5 snapshot. His breakdowns for different state groupings — HealthCare.gov states vs. SBMs, and states that have enacted the ACA Medicaid expansion — are below, in simplified format, and followed by a few observations.

    OEP Week 5: 2023 vs. 2024