eHealth Insurance gives tons of reasons why OFF-exchange enrollments are so important

Hat Tip To: 
Steve Ciccarelli

A very nice find from a contributor: This press release which just came out today, detailing private off-exchange online insurance broker eHealth Insurance's demographic breakdown of ACA-compliant QHP enrollments since January.

You may recall that eHealth Insurance makes up about 25% of the total known off-exchange QHPs I have listed on the spreadsheet so far; the 148K entered from them so far only runs through the end of December.

While this new press release doesn't include their updated enrollment numbers, it does prove, once again, that off-exchange enrollments are vitally important:

The company’s data show that eHealth shoppers since January 1, 2014 tend to be younger and more likely to have been previously uninsured compared to eHealth shoppers in the first half of the open enrollment period. Additionally, eHealth reports that catastrophic plans are growing in popularity since the beginning of the year and that average monthly premiums for plans chosen by shoppers at eHealth have declined at both the national level and in select states surveyed by eHealth, including California, Illinois, and Florida.

“This is a moment of truth for the Affordable Care Act,” said eHealth CEO and Chairman Gary Lauer. “Will health reform meet its goals of enrolling millions of Americans in quality, affordable health insurance plans and reducing the ranks of the nation’s uninsured? At eHealth, we’ve been doing our part since October 1. We’re reaching the hard-to-get key consumers in the 18-34 age group and among the previously uninsured, and we’re matching them with coverage today.”

“We are also now enrolling consumers manually, via telephone, in subsidy-eligible health plans in the 36 states supported by, as well as in California,” Lauer continued. “While we are pleased to be able to assist lower-income visitors to eHealth, our goal is to be able to enroll the subsidy-eligible in a much more scalable way online. We are continuing discussions with the federal government and the states to be able to accomplish this in the future.”

I realize this makes me sound like a huge cheerleader/advertisement for eHealth Insurance. The truth is, I have no connection to them and hadn't even heard of them prior to a couple of months ago. They may be a fantastic company, or they may suck; I have no idea.

However, given their size (they claim to be the largest online private broker in the country) and especially their strong embrace of the ACA enrollment process, their impact on the total QHP enrollments cannot be denied.

This is important for two reasons: First, in terms of the total number of enrollments, this goes directly to answer the question of the "OMG!! 5M POLICIES CANCELLED!!" attacks. As I keep hammering home, not all of those 5M (actually more like 4.8M from my understanding) can be "subtracted" from the exchange QHP total; some of them enrolled directly in new, compliant policies directly through the 200+ insurance companies...or via brokers like eHealth. Note the first boldfaced line above: Enrollees since January 1 are more likely to have been previously uninsured compared to the Oct/Nov/Dec enrollees.

In other words, a big chunk of their earlier enrollees were switching over from existing policies. I presume that mainly means people whose policies were cancelled...and every one of those which made the switch off-exchange is one less to "subtract" from the on-exchange total.

Secondly--and more importantly--if I understand how risk pools work, the private insurance companies consider both on- and off-exchange enrollments to be part of the same risk pool (at least the companies who are participating in the exchanges, anyway). As contributor Steve C. put it, "BC/BS doesn't care if the enrollee is from OR eHealth...If the enrollee is 28, the enrollee is 28.  Pretty simple."