Report Documents Disappointing Lag In American Use of ACA Health Insurance Exchanges Despite Administration’s Positive Spin Efforts


Despite administration efforts to put a positive spin on the data, federal and state Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange) enrollment and other statistics through November 30, 2013 announced by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on December 11, 2013 confirm that enrollment through the Exchange continues to lag well behind projections by the Administration.

In the Health Insurance Marketplace: December Enrollment Report released November 11, 2013, HHS reveals important statistics about the number of Americans who have used the federal or state Health Insurance Exchanges established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the expectation that they would be used by millions of Americans by January 1, 2014 to enroll in health insurance coverage subject to ACA reforms to enroll in health coverage. The Re Report features cumulative data for the two month period because some people apply, shop, and select a plan across monthly reporting periods. These counts avoid potential duplication associated with monthly reporting. For example, if a person submitted an application in October, and then selected a Marketplace plan in November, this person would only be counted once in the cumulative data.

Under ACA, HHS was charged with implementing a federal Exchange for use by Americans and certain federal employees and residents of the District of Colombia as well as citizens in states not electing to establish their own state Exchanges to compare and apply for enrollment in health insurance coverage meeting the essential health benefit and other mandates of ACA.
Although ACA called for Exchange enrollment for individuals and employees of small businesses electing to offer employee coverage through the Exchange to begin November 1, 2013 for ACA-compliant coverage scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2014, functionality, security and other problems revealed in connection with the opening of the federal Exchange in October and issues in the performance of certain state Exchanges have plagued the enrollment process and subjected HHS generally and Secretary Sebelius to significant criticism. In response to that criticism, the Obama Administration was forced to extend the enrollment deadline for individual Americans to apply for 2014 coverage through the federal Exchange, cancel online enrollment in the federal Exchange for employees of small businesses and to launch a major campaign that it promised would “fix” other issues in the functionality of the Exchange by November 30, 2013.

The Report confirms Americans are not embracing or using the Exchanges anywhere close to the projections predicted by the Obama Administration and other supporters of ACA to evaluate their health insurance coverage choices much less to enroll in health coverage redesigned to meet the mandates of ACA. The Report groups findings by state and federal marketplaces. In some cases only partial datasets were available for state marketplaces.

The Report reveals a disappointing lack of delivery on the promise of ACA supporters that millions of Americans would flock to use the Exchanges to enroll in the coverage options offered by health insurers participating in the Exchanges. Among other things, the Report reveals that between October 1 and November 30, 2013:

  • 1.9 million Americans reportedly successfully completed the eligibility process and were determined eligible to enroll but have not yet selected a plan;
  • 803,077 Americans were determined or assessed eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in October and November by the Marketplace;
  • 39.1 million visitors visited the state and federal Exchange sites; and
  • HHS estimates that approximately 5.2 million calls were received by the state and federal call centers; but
  • Only 364,682 Americans selected plans from the state and federal Marketplaces.

While it remains unclear whether technical problems, disappointment by Americans in the cost, benefit options and other aspects of the ACA-reformed coverage, or other factors account for huge gap between the promised and realized performance of the Exchanges in delivering on their promise to provide reliable, efficient, accessible tools to enable millions of Americans to enroll in health insurance coverage options. See, e.g., Some state insurance exchanges continue to battle technical problems; Obamacare technical problems plague health market; ACA Watch – Exchange technical issues may lead to direct enrollment. While technical issues clearly impacted enrollment, ACA detractors also point to survey’s showing growing public dissatisfaction over higher than expected costs, limitations of coverage choices, privacy and other concerns.

Despite the disappointing numbers and continuing reports of issues in the functionality and security of the federal Exchange and state Exchanges, Secretary Sebelius sought to put a positive spin on the data. “Evidence of the technical improvements to HealthCare.gov can be seen in the enrollment numbers. More and more Americans are finding that quality, affordable coverage is within reach and that they’ll no longer need to worry about barriers they may have faced in the past – like being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

It remains to be seen if the claimed fixes in the technology will turn around the lagging enrollment and decline in public support reflected in recent surveys.

For Assistance or More Information

If you have questions or need help with 2014 health plan decision-making or preparation, or with reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 25 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters.

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals. A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials about regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns.

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, HR.com, Insurance Thought Leadership, Solutions Law Press, Inc. and other publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations. She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications. Her widely respected publications and programs include more than 25 years of publications on health plan contracting, design, administration and risk management including a “Managed Care Contracting Guide” published by the American Health Lawyers Association and numerous other works on vendor contracting.  You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here .  You also can get access to information about how you can arrange for training on “Building Your Family’s Health Care Toolkit,”  using the “PlayForLife” resources to organize low-cost wellness programs in your workplace, school, church or other communities, and other process improvement, compliance and other training and other resources for health care providers, employers, health plans, community leaders and others here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here. You can reach other recent updates and other informative publications and resources.

Recent examples of these publications include:

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©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Nonexclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.

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