Five health insurers will sell individual plans through the NY State of Health insurance exchange to area consumers for 2017, according to the state Health Department.
That’s the same number of health insurance companies that sold individual coverage for 2016 in at least one of the eight counties of Western New York.
Four companies are selling small-business insurance coverage through the exchange for 2017 in the region, also the same number as in 2016.
State health officials said consumers continue to have considerable choice on the exchange market, and the exchange since its launch has helped reduce the state’s rate of uninsured from 10 percent in 2013 to 5 percent in September 2015. The number of uninsured New Yorkers fell by 850,000 over that period.
“Since its start three years ago, NY State of Health has had tremendous success, enrolling more than 2.8 million New Yorkers in affordable coverage through the marketplace.” Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health, said in a statement. Enrollment stood at 150,493 in this region.
Enrollment for the NY State of Health exchange started in 2013 for coverage that began Jan. 1, 2014.
The insurance exchanges in New York and in states across the country are among the most notable features of the Affordable Care Act. They were meant to fill the gap for people who don’t receive employer-sponsored health insurance, who earn too much to receive Medicaid and who are too young to receive coverage through Medicare.
The most notable change in the NY State of Health exchange came last year when state and federal regulators ordered the closure of Health Republic Insurance, citing concerns over steep financial losses. Health Republic had the second-largest market share statewide on the exchange for individual coverage, and the largest share in Western New York for individual coverage. The company’s competitors filled in the gap.
Other than the shutdown of Health Republic, the number of companies selling plans in Western New York, and across the state, largely has held steady since the exchange opened.
“There are some counties, some very rural counties, that don’t have the same number of plan offerings. But certainly any of the metropolitan areas have good competition and have a good selection of plans. And I think that’s one of the strengths of our marketplace,” said Leslie Moran, senior vice president for the New York Health Plan Association, a trade group for the state’s health insurers.
Fourteen companies are offering individual coverage in a qualified health plan in at least one county statewide for 2017, one fewer than in 2016, though the company that withdrew, Wellcare, enrolled just 1,000 members in a qualified health plan through the exchange.
Eight insurers are offering small business coverage through the exchange, and 14 insurers are offering Essential plans, which are designed for lower-income residents.
Locally, in Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, four insurers are offering individual coverage in a qualified health plan on the exchange: BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Fidelis Care New York, Independent Health and Univera Healthcare. In Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties, the four insurers are joined by MVP Health Plan. Those are the same options as last year.
That contrasts with the national picture, where as much as one-third of the country could see one insurer offer exchange coverage and 55 percent could see two or fewer insurance options, according to an analysis by Avalere Health.
Open enrollment for individuals and families begins Nov. 1 for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1. The enrollment period ends Jan. 31. Small businesses can enroll any time.
State insurance regulators approved rate increases ranging from 8.7 percent to 19.6 percent for individual plans sold on and off the exchange next year in the region. Insurers cited rising healthcare and drug costs, government mandates and other factors as driving the rate hike requests. Consumers can choose from a range of plans sold on different “metal” tiers with different price points, as well as the Essential plan or Medicaid if they qualify based on income.
For more information on which plans are available in each county, visit info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/PlansMap.