Open enrollment period

2024 ACA Open Enrollment: Steady Plan Competition, Tailored Benefits

Ahead of the 2024 open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act exchange plans that began on Nov. 1, major U.S. health insurers issued a spate of press releases touting their plan options and listing new areas in which they’d offer coverage. While ACA marketplace experts say that 2024 will not feature any seismic changes in terms of insurer competition — given the exchanges’ history of mass insurer exits and panic over “bare counties” with no available health plans, that may be a good thing.

“Overall participation by carriers is down from last year, when there was also a slight decline,” says Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., who for years has helped produce the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) ACA Marketplace Participation Tracker. “So after several years of increased entry into new states, now we have seen a real leveling off,” adds Hempstead, who is RWJF’s senior policy adviser.

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HealthCare.gov Options in 2024, at a Glance

In 2024 compared to 2023, there’s minimal change in terms of HealthCare.gov issuer participation, but shoppers do face a higher average benchmark plan premium, according to CMS. Out of the 32 states that are using HealthCare.gov, eight have more Qualified Health Plan (QHP) issuers in 2024, and 96% of enrollees have access to three or more issuers, compared to 93% in 2023. Yet there are 210 QHP issuers participating in HealthCare.gov next year, an overall decrease of nine compared to 2023. Virginia stopped using HealthCare.gov in 2024.

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Insurer Groups Sound Off on Proposed Changes to Fixed Indemnity, Short-Term Plans

Health insurer trade groups agree that it’s a good idea to reinstate strict limits on short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI) plans, according to their official comments on a proposed rule from the Biden administration. But their views diverge on the proposed regulation’s treatment of fixed indemnity insurance and other supplemental coverage.

The proposed rule in question — issued on July 7 by HHS and the Labor and Treasury departments — answered a growing chorus of calls to crack down on STLDI amid concerns that many consumers mistake them for comprehensive coverage. Meant to bridge a gap in insurance coverage, STLDI plans are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections, such as the ban on charging higher rates for sicker people and the requirement that plans must cover a prescribed set of “essential benefits.”

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Consumers Could Use More Help Choosing Individual Market Plans, Study Suggests

A survey of people enrolled in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans in California found that 28% had difficulty paying their premiums in 2021, according to a study published last month in Health Affairs. While that is an improvement from 40% in a similar sample of enrollees in 2017, Vicki Fung, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, tells AIS Health that more could be done to help people choose affordable coverage and determine whether they are eligible for cost-sharing subsidies.

Fung notes that health insurers could help people with consumers’ decisions, including coordinating with agents and brokers that insurers work with and steering people who are eligible for generous subsidies toward purchasing a similar plan via the ACA exchange rather than off-marketplace.

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National Carriers Net 80% of 500,000 MA Sign-Ups During Open Enrollment Period

Medicare Advantage enrollment grew by more than 507,000 lives during the 2023 Open Enrollment Period (OEP), according to CMS’s May data release and AIS’s Directory of Health Plans. That’s a significant increase from last year’s OEP, when plans added about 230,000 new members from February to May 2022. The news comes just weeks after a KFF analysis found that the number of seniors enrolled in MA vs. original Medicare officially crossed the 50% threshold.

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HealthCare.gov Enrollment Hits Record High; State-Based Marketplace Enrollment Shrinks

A record high 16.4 million people enrolled in Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage during the 2023 Open Enrollment Period, including 12.2 million people who live in states using HealthCare.gov and 4.2 million in 18 states with their own marketplace, according to CMS. Enrollment in HealthCare.gov marketplaces was up 19% compared with 2022, while signups in the state-based marketplaces saw a slight decline for the first time since 2019.

More than half of states saw their enrollment increase by at least 5% from 2022 to 2023, with five states experiencing signup surges of more than 25%. Meanwhile, plan selections in Kentucky, Massachusetts and New Mexico shrunk by over 10% year over year.

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Policy Wonks Parse the Curious Case of Declining State-Based Marketplace Enrollment

With nearly all the 2023 open enrollment period data now tallied, it appears that something curious is happening in states that run their own Affordable Care Act exchanges: Enrollment levels are on track to decline compared to 2022. That trend follows years in which state-based marketplaces (SBMs) outperformed states using the HealthCare.gov platform in terms of year-over-year enrollment growth, and it comes as HealthCare.gov states are reporting a significant signup surge compared to 2022.

Health policy experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that there are likely multiple factors causing the reversal of fortunes between HealthCare.gov and SBM enrollment. But in an important takeaway for health insurers that operate in the exchanges, they say the trend could indicate that the “addressable market” in certain states is reaching its saturation point.

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News Briefs: ACA Marketplace Enrollment Tops 16.3M

During the open enrollment period that ended on Jan. 15 in most states, 16,306,448 people selected an Affordable Care Act marketplace plan, the Biden administration said on Jan. 25. That total represents a 13% increase compared to the same time last year, and accounts for plan selections through Jan. 15 on the 33 states using HealthCare.gov and through Jan. 14 or 15 on the 18 state-based marketplaces. While record-breaking for the exchanges, the signup total for 2023 is not final, as open enrollment continued through Jan. 23 for Massachusetts Health Connector and through Jan. 31 for DC Health Link, Covered California, Get Covered New Jersey, New York State of Health and Health Source Rhode Island. Still, the Biden administration hailed the new enrollment figures, with CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure stating: “On the tenth anniversary of the ACA Marketplaces, the numbers speak for themselves: more people signed up for plans this year than ever before, and the uninsured rate is at an all-time low.”

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Enrollees in 2023 ACA Plans Face Higher Average Premiums, but Get Rich Subsidies

Nearly 11.5 million people selected or were automatically reenrolled in health plans for 2023 on HealthCare.gov as of Dec. 15, 2022, an 18% increase over the same time period in 2021, according to CMS. Although the average premium for benchmark silver plans (before accounting for tax credits) increased by 4.1% in 2023 after four years of declines, enrollees receiving subsidies may find their net premiums for low-cost bronze, silver and gold plans are lower than last year, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

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Oscar Freezes ACA Signups in Florida, Citing ‘Market Exits by Certain Carriers’

In a move made at a critical juncture in the annual Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, Oscar Health, Inc. recently said it will “temporarily stop accepting new members in the state of Florida.”

Industry observers tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that the decision is clearly linked to fellow startup Bright Health Group, Inc.’s exit from all 15 states in which it was set to sell plans next year. But they’re divided on what the implications are for Oscar’s viability as a business.

In a Dec. 12 press release, Oscar — which was founded in 2012 and went public in 2021 — said that it “proactively engaged regulators [in Florida], as a result of the changing market dynamics following market exits by certain carriers, regarding options to manage its membership growth.”

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