Health signups show 44% of new enrollees had been uninsured - The Buffalo News

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Health signups show 44% of new enrollees had been uninsured

People who signed up for insurance through New York’s health insurance exchange were older than desired by architects of the marketplace and many opted for coverage through lesser-known health plans offering lower premiums.

Also, nearly half of the people who enrolled on the exchange in its first three months of operation were not insured at the time they enrolled, and two-thirds enrolled in a private insurance plan instead of Medicaid or Child Health Plus.

They are among the key findings of a report released this week by the state Department of Health that offers the most detailed breakdown yet of enrollment data for the NY State of Health insurance exchange.

The report helps shine a light on the performance of the New York exchange, part of a national network of insurance marketplaces that serve as a crucial component of federal health care reform efforts.

Local insurance executives say the data should be viewed as a snapshot of what will be a long-term reshaping of how health insurance is delivered to people who aren’t covered by their employer or the federal government.

“I think the jury’s still out,” said David Thomas, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Fidelis Care. The detailed enrollment data was provided in the form of percentages, not raw numbers. It covers the period between Oct. 1, when the state exchange went live, and Dec. 24, when 230,624 people had enrolled in coverage through the exchange.

One of the most eagerly sought pieces of information was how the newest entrants in the local insurance market fared on the exchange against the area’s dominant insurers: BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health and Univera Healthcare.

The state released data for each insurer on a statewide, not a region-by-region, basis.

The eight counties of Western New York accounted for 7 percent of exchange enrollment.

The state figures show that Independent Health grabbed 2 percent of the statewide exchange market, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York won 1 percent of the market and Univera took less than 1 percent.

“Based on what we’ve received to date, we’re very pleased with where we’re at,” said Greg Pasieka, director of health care reform for BlueCross BlueShield, which had more than 2,100 exchange enrollees as of Jan. 1.

Independent Health enrolled 2,350 people on the exchange. Officials there believe their new members selected Independent Health based on comfort with the brand, and the level of customer service provided, in spite of lower rates offered by unfamiliar companies. “They know who they’re working with,” said Nora McGuire, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

Univera declined to release its own exchange numbers and issued a statement saying it’s premature to analyze enrollment trends on the site.

Two insurers that held little of the local individual and group insurance market – Health Republic Insurance of New York and Fidelis Care – came away with 16 percent and 14 percent, respectively, of statewide exchange enrollment.

Fidelis, which has a strong background in government-sponsored insurance programs, said its local presence through a Getzville facility and its relatively low prices helped it win customers in the area. The company enrolled about 1,700 people in individual coverage here.

“I think we’re feeling good about where things are at this point, but we’re not resting on our laurels,” Thomas said.

Health Republic, which consistently offered the lowest premiums on the exchange, signed up more than 20,000 members statewide through the exchange, according to the company, which could not provide a Western New York figure.

Another compelling question was whether the young, healthy and uninsured – coveted because they balance out the costs for everyone else – would sign up on the exchange.

And 26 percent of exchange enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly higher than the 24 percent reported for the states in the federal exchange.

About 44 percent of people who enrolled in private health insurance on the exchange were not insured when they enrolled. In New York, the biggest share was in the 55-to-64-year-old bracket, which can be more expensive to insure, with 31 percent of exchange enrollees.

Executives with carriers said that exchange enrollment accounts for a small portion of their overall membership, which is dominated by employees of companies large and small, despite all the attention paid to the state and federal exchanges. For example, Independent Health, with 2,350 exchange enrollees, has 369,000 members.


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