Premiums For 2015 Silver-Level Health Insurance Plans Being Offered at Lower Rates in Many Geographic Areas Than 2014

Consumers in most of the geographic areas studied will be able to obtain 2015 silver-level health plan coverage at lower rates than were available in 2014 or at premium increases of less than 5 percent found a new study by the Urban Institute.

Observers had been concerned that large premium increases might kick in for year two of the ACA health insurance marketplace experience.

Often the researchers found that a different carrier from the 2014 health plan is offering the lowest priced silver option in a rating area for 2015.

The ACA’s incentives, centered on the silver plan premiums in an area, the study report said, resulted in “healthy competition over rates in many markets in 2014, particularly in urban areas. Markets generally saw a large number of competing carriers offering several plans.”

The Urban Institute report said national commercial plans, “particularly Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plans, as well as local carriers, entered the health insurance marketplaces in 2014.”

Plans previously providing coverage only for Medicaid beneficiaries and cooperatives also entered the marketplaces in a number of areas, the researchers said. “As a result of competition, premiums were surprisingly modest in many areas, particularly in comparison with benchmarks such as small group market premiums.”

The study analyzed non-group marketplace plans. “We focus on 17 states and the District of Columbia, which were the first to complete their rate review and approval processes,” the researchers said.

Overall, the study found that: Continue reading

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What They Learned From the First ACA Open Enrollment Period in California

Affordability means different things to different people, target enrollment groups have unique interests and require tailored messaging, partnerships matter and are transformative, and, many consumers are new to insurance and need extensive education about health insurance terminology, are among the lessons learned by officials at the California Health Benefit Exchange called Covered California in a review of its first open enrollment period 2013-2014.

The new report, “Covered California Open Enrollment 2013-2014: Lessons Learned” looks at the experience from the first year California offered expanded health coverage through new Affordable Care Act subsidies and the expansion of Medi-Cal through the Covered California marketplace, the organization said.

More than 3 million state residents were enrolled in coverage during the first enrollment period — 1.4 million in health insurance through Covered California2 and more than 1.9 million in Medi-Cal, officials said.

“The report,” the organization said, “provides the first in-depth review of our efforts in the first year, including marketing, outreach and education, eligibility and enrollment support, consumer profiles, marketing research, and information about those we still need to enroll.”

The populous state faced “outsized challenges, making it unique among states establishing state exchanges. From the start, California focused on addressing these challenges in the design of the marketplace and in the state’s approach to reaching, educating and enrolling millions of uninsured and underinsured Californians, particularly those who struggle to afford the costs of health care and coverage.”

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Covered California said it was also “mindful that its marketplace design and implementation would shape the broader health insurance market in California for those who were not eligible for subsidies through the exchange, many of whom had coverage before the initial open enrollment.”

Some 7.1 million state residents were uninsured, officials said, sometime during the year before implementation of reform.

Among the lessons learned:

* Many consumers are new to insurance and need extensive education about health insurance terminology, how to enroll in coverage and how to use insurance.

* Consumers need clear, straightforward information that explains how insurance works in plain language, without jargon. There is an ongoing need for a comprehensive,accessible, educational campaign to help answer common questions about Covered California’s products and promote the value of insurance. For 2015 open enrollment, advertising messaging is attempting to explain, in first-person testimonials, that health coverage means going to the doctor and getting the care you need.

* Affordability means different things to different people. Many consumers, even with financial assistance through federal subsidies, found cost to be a barrier to obtaining coverage. Future communications need to address the issue of affordability by emphasizing the value of having insurance and the financial security (protection from arge medical bills) that it provides. New advertising and marketing materials include testimonials from newly insured Californians explaining that insurance is a bill they don’t mind paying each month, with an emphasis on the peace of mind of having coverage and the financial security it brings for those able to purchase it.

* Target enrollment groups have unique interests, experiences and perspectives and require tailored messaging and customizable materials. Consumers in different age, income, gender and ethnic groups reflect different circumstances, knowledge and needs for information and support. Media messaging, marketing and collateral materials, assister training, and community outreach and enrollment efforts need to address the specific needs and interests of diverse communities. Community partners, grantees, agents and enrollment counselors need simple, updated fact sheets, fliers, brochures and other materials, including customizable materials for local events and target groups.

Covered California expanded its targeted support to local outreach and has developed, and will continue to develop, customizable, focused materials available to community partners and insurance agents for open enrollment in 2015.

* Most consumers relied on a variety of touch points, including in-person assistance, to successfully complete enrollment. Most consumers needed multiple touch points, whether pursuing self-service or an assistance pathway. They wanted to ask questions, get answers, identify the options and then consider, often in consultation with friends and family, the coverage most suitable for them. Covered California responded by shifting marketing and outreach messaging and encouraging Californians to take advantage of free, confidential, in-person assistance in local communities. More than 6,400 Certified Enrollment Counselors and more than 12,000 Certified Insurance Agents will be part of a comprehensive campaign for enrollment in 2015.

* The multi-channel marketing and media mix struck an effective balance between brand (awareness) and direct response (enrollment) and will continue to be tailored to specific target audiences. The large number of those eligible who enrolled is the strongest indicator that the community-level outreach, marketing and media campaigns, as adjusted in real time, were successful in accomplishing the two program goals: brand awareness and enrollment. Going forward, marketing and advertising will support the community outreach campaign targeting key demographic groups and segments. Building on brand awareness, advertising will be aimed at explaining how to enroll and motivating audiences to enroll by sharing the tangible ways having health coverage is improving the lives of real people.

* Partnerships matter and are transformative. At every stage of planning and implementation for the first open enrollment, Covered California relied on and collaborated with a multicultural and varied set of state and local partners who made the unprecedented effort possible. Covered California partners made real-time adjustments and accommodations as challenges surfaced and consistently helped in resolving and addressing those challenges. The partnerships reaffirm the power of shared commitment, collaboration and common effort.

Following is the link to the report: http://www.coveredca.com/resources/PDFs/10-14-2014-Lessons-Learned-final.pdf