END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (42 states)

Time: D H M S

California: 1.6 million QHPs thru 1/23

The last time Covered California released enrollment data, they gave a hard number for new enrollees (258,158) but left the number of people renewing their policies a bit vague ("approximately 1.3 million"). I later learned that the actual number of renewals had been rounded up, so I'm assuming it's actually around 1.27 million; this gives a total of 1.53 million QHP selections as of January 3rd.

Today, CoveredCA issued another update, touting a new enrollee survey which concludes that in California, at least, people don't seem to be shying away from enrolling in spite of the ugly ACA repeal rhetoric coming out of Washington, DC:

Covered California Enrollment Continues at Strong Pace; New Research Suggests ACA News Coverage Is Not Deterring Consumers

  • More than 320,000 consumers have newly enrolled since Nov. 1 — a similar pace to last year.
  • Research conducted in December indicates the Affordable Care Act (ACA) debate at the national level is a concern for consumers, but is not keeping them from enrolling.
  • Affordability continues to be the main perceived barrier to getting coverage.
  • Most have a positive feeling about Covered California.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As of Monday, Jan. 23, 322,014 people have newly enrolled in a health plan through Covered California since Nov. 1, keeping pace with enrollment last year despite a measure of concern on the part of Californians about the future of the ACA.

When you add this to the estimated 1.27 million renewing enrollees from last year, that's a total of roughly 1.592 million QHP selections to date.

I've lowered my projection for California slightly, from 1.725 million to 1.70 million, which would be around 8% higher than last year's 1.575 million. They need 108,000 more enrollments during the final deadline surge to hit that. In any event, they've tacked on another 64,000 enrollees in the past 3 weeks.

“As we continue working to enroll consumers in Covered California, it’s heartening to see that they continue to place great faith in our brand and are getting the financial help essential to getting and keeping health coverage for those who need it,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “While people are worried, the uncertainty is not preventing them from enrolling or renewing in coverage for 2017.”

The study, titled “An Integrated Quantitative and Qualitative Study on Post-Election Attitudes Toward Enrolling in and Renewing Health Insurance Coverage,” was conducted between Dec. 14, 2016, and Jan. 3, 2017, to evaluate whether to adjust Covered California’s marketing and outreach messaging. The qualitative and quantitative research, which included focus-group testing and an online survey of 500 respondents, was conducted by Greenberg Strategy, an Emeryville-based research and strategy consultancy with clients around the world.

Among the findings:

  • Concerns about affordability and costs rising far outweigh concerns about the future of the ACA.
  • Consumers say if they could afford coverage, they would sign up for it.
  • Ninety percent of consumers think subsidies will continue to be available in 2017.
  • The belief that the ACA will be cancelled is not associated with hesitation to enroll or renew.

The survey also found that while the affordability of health care remains a top concern among consumers, many still do not know that financial help is available to lower the costs of their premiums and care. 

“Subsidies to help consumers buy health insurance on the exchange are critical to making coverage affordable to many people in California,” Lee said. “Because those subsidies are available, more than a million customers are able to buy health coverage they can afford.”

As of June 2016, policyholders have benefitted from an average of $440 per month in financial assistance, and nearly 90 percent of Covered California members receive some level of financial help.

“Consistent with what we have seen in the last four years, affordability is still the barrier, especially for those who remain uninsured,” Lee said. “Any policy changes coming from Washington D.C. need to continue to address consumers’ core concerns about affordability.”

According to the research, consumers have a lot of trust in the Covered California brand, with a “willingness to believe that California will save the day, and an openness to and trust in the idea that Covered California will be part of the solution.” 

  • “Right now, I feel California is looking out for us, and we can’t trust what’s going on in D.C.” — Focus-group participant, uninsured.
  • “I don't think California will let us down. We moved here for a government that takes care of its people.” — Survey respondent, insured through Covered California.

Lee said consumers should not hesitate to enroll, and that Covered California is committed to keeping them informed of any changes that could affect them in the future.  

“We recognize that the discussion in Washington can be unsettling, but those without insurance should not hesitate to enroll in coverage if they can afford it,” he said. “Purchasing insurance can give them access to health care almost immediately, which can be life-changing.” 

The complete study can be found here.

Open enrollment continues through Jan. 31, 2017. 

Consumers interested in enrolling online can do so on CoveredCA.com. They can also get free and confidential in-person assistance, in a variety of languages, by clicking on “Free Local Help to Enroll.” They can find a nearby enroller or have a certified enroller contact them through the “Help on Demand” feature. Consumers can also enroll over the phone by calling Covered California at (800) 300-1506.