Friday, November 15, 2013

After One Month, 1,284 Individuals Enrolled in Private Health Plans Through Maryland Obamacare Site

    The latest weekly report for the Maryland Health Connection reveals that the Obamacare marketplace for the state is continuing to under-perform versus expectations.  Two weeks ago, the state reported that through November 1, enrollment had reached 4,651 for the first month of open enrollment, and an additional 84,273 Marylanders would be automatically signed up for Medicaid as of January 1, 2014.  The following week, as I reported, the state withheld enrollment figures because the "Maryland Health Connection is revising its approach to providing numbers of enrolled Marylanders."  The current report reflects the revised approach and the result is rather stunning.  Only 1,274 individuals were enrolled in plans they had chosen during the first month of enrollment.
    A footnote in the weekly report explains the reason for the revised numbers:
In previous reports, we included Marylanders who chose managed care plans among “enrollments.” Because Medicaid coverage does not require plan selection (unlike coverage through qualified health plans), the eligibility determination is a better representation of insurance status than plan selection for this population. 
    Here is the official breakdown:
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that from October 1 through November 2:  
  • 10,917 applications were submitted in Maryland for coverage;
  • Among Marylanders included on submitted applications, 5,923 were determined eligible for Medicaid and 3,498 were determined eligible to purchase private health insurance; and 
  • 1,284 Marylanders had selected a health plan for enrollment.
    A chart accompanies the breakdown that shows enrollment by age bracket.  Included in the breakdown of the 1,284 Marylanders that have selected a plan are 108 listed as "< 18." This signifies that minors are included in the 1,284, meaning that the 1,284 literally represents totals persons covered by selected plans; the number of households coverage then would be somewhat less.
    Also revealed in the numbers in that in addition to the 84,273 automatically being added to Medicaid rolls, another 5,923 were determined eligible for the program as well, bringing the Medicaid total to over 90,000.  So for every one person enrolled in an individually selected private health plan, 70 have been added to Medicaid.
    Another worrisome aspect of the report is the rate of creation of verified accounts, the first step toward obtaining coverage through the exchanges.  Before the first two weeks were finished, 30,000 verified accounts were created.  But by November 9, that total had only grown to 53,000, an increase of 23,000 in twice the time.  After an average of 15,000 a week for the first two weeks, the increase slipped to about 6,000 a week since then.
    In spite of the problems, the report remained optimistic:
Through November 9, 1,743 Marylanders have chosen to enroll in private health plans through Maryland Health Connection. This is a 36% increase over the total through November 2.
     While 36% sounds substantial, it represents only 459 individuals.  Even if the exchange added 1,000 individuals per week for the remaining 20 weeks of open enrollment, the total as of March 31 would be about 22,000, far short of the 150,000 Maryland hoped to sign up during the first year of Obamacare.

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