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09 February 2018, 05:18 | Lucy Hill
Covered California Sees Slight Drop In Renewals
Almost 11.8 million Americans have signed up for coverage this year under former President Barack Obama's health care law, about 3 percent less than last year, according to a new tally by The Associated Press. Newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is a critic of the health law but has avoided directly antagonizing Democrats over it.
The outlook for next year, however, remains unclear.
People who are eligible for health law subsidies would be shielded from such increases, but those who don't get financial assistance would face another round of premium hikes.
The Trump administration also is promoting lower-cost insurance alternatives that don't offer the comprehensive benefits available through the health law. But that also has drawbacks. If they prove popular, that could siphon off more healthy people.
The decline was concentrated in states where the federal government runs the Obamacare markets. Overall enrollment dipped slightly in California, but the number of new customers increased.
The difference, according to NASHP, was state-based exchanges used "effective communication"-since they didn't cut their advertising budgets like HHS-to reach out to key populations who may be eligible for larger subsidies, shielding them from the double-digit premium increases seen across the country".
"Just the removal of the [individual mandate penalty in Congress' recently enacted tax overhaul] will mean premiums go up 15 percent to 30 percent or more depending on the state", said Lee.
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Subsidized consumers paid less for health coverage in 2018 than 2017 due to the protective effect of their subsidy rising to offset higher premiums, while unsubsidized consumers in the individual market - both in and out of Covered California - saw their costs rise. Enrollment isn't final until consumers pay their first month's premium.
The report combined enrollment figures from the federal exchange, where enrollment ended on December 15, 2017, along with state-based exchanges that allowed customers to select plans as late as January 31.
Officials from states operating their own exchanges said their ability to make changes led to their gains.
What would help boost enrollment when sign-ups begin again later this year, according to leaders of state-based exchanges, is additional federal funding for reinsurance.
State marketplaces tended to fare better for a combination of reasons.
In fact, of the 12 jurisdictions running their own exchanges, eight gained enrollees - only California, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Vermont lagged behind 2017 levels.
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