Despite technical difficulties and confusion over the enrollment process, the first year of the federal health insurance benefits exchange has been determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to be successful. According to a new analysis of the exchanges by the federal agency, the majority of Americans who purchased health plans with tax credits had affordable premiums and had a strong selection of plans to choose from. All in all, the report found the exchanges to be running efficiently in the first open enrollment period. However, there continue to be questions around premiums and how tax subsidies will work during the next open enrollment period, which starts this November, as there have been issues regarding the accuracy of enrollees’ data during the last period.
Exchanges considered a success
The HHS looked at numerous factors. Kaiser Health News broke down the analysis to who bought plans on the exchanges, how much they are now paying compared to their previous premiums and how financially helpful receiving federal subsidies has been for those with new health plans. The department didn’t include information from those states that ran their own exchanges or the District of Columbia, according to Kaiser. It also didn’t note how many enrollees paid their first premiums, the news source noted.
The HHS’ findings were in two categories: the average plan premiums and the choice of plans on the exchange.
The majority of people who bought insurance benefits on the marketplace had premiums that were affordable. Forty-six percent of enrollees had premiums of up to $50 a month and 69 percent had premiums up to $100 a month. What helped to keep premiums low was a combination of tax credits and picking plans with low premiums. In fact, the analysis found those who chose plans with tax credits were able to reduce their premium costs by 76 percent. The analysis also found silver was the most popular type of health plan on the marketplace, and its average premium was $69 per month. The average premium before tax credits for these plans was $345, and subsidies covered $276 of that amount.
There was a wide selection of health plans to chose from on HealthCare.gov, according to the analysis. There were 266 insurers who participated in the federal exchange, and there were more than 19,000 plans for enrollees to choose from. Most people were eligible for plans from two or more insurers, which may have led to strong competition and lower premium costs.
“What we’re finding is that the marketplace is working,” said Sylvia Burwell, the new HHS secretary. “Consumers have more choices and they’re paying less for their premiums.”
Premiums and subsidies to take center stage
While the HHS determined that the federal marketplace ran well during its first open enrollment period and that many people received tax credits, The New York Times recently reported many enrollees had inaccurate information and may not have received the right subsidy amounts. According to the newspaper, 8 in 10 enrollees have tax credits to offset the cost of their health insurance purchased on the exchanges, and approximately 2 million Americans gave information that is different than what the government has on file for them. What this means is that some people may not have received the right credit amount – they either received too much or too little. The New York Times reported the government is trying to compile more information from these enrollees. If these people don’t give the government the needed information, they could be at risk of losing their subsidized coverage, the newspaper reported.