New Jersey: ACA Individual Market enrollment drops for first time since 2014, Insurance Commissioner squarely pins it on #ACASabotage

Thanks to Maanasa Kona of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown for the heads up:

For the first time since 2014, the # enrolled in individual health plans in the first quarter of the calendar year in NJ went down from the previous year. Commissioner Caride blames the current administration's actions.

— Maanasa Kona (@MaanasaKona) June 22, 2018

Here's the press release and table:

Health Insurance Enrollment in NJ Individual Market Down 10 Percent in First Quarter of 2018

Reduced Enrollment Demonstrates Importance of Policies Aimed at Stabilizing the Market, Increasing Access to Affordable and Quality Coverage

TRENTON — The Department of Banking and Insurance today released figures showing that New Jersey experienced a more than 10 percent decline in health insurance enrollment in the individual market for the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same period in 2017. Commissioner Marlene Caride said the decline in enrollment in the State’s individual market follows numerous actions in Washington aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act, and demonstrates the importance of the state’s work to stabilize the market and improve access to coverage for residents.

“Federal actions to undermine the Affordable Care Act, including the failure to fund Cost Sharing Reduction payments and the elimination of the individual mandate, created enormous uncertainty in the market and had a significant negative effect on health insurance enrollment in New Jersey,” said Commissioner Caride. “This is troubling because it means fewer New Jerseyans have access to care and the protections they were afforded under the landmark federal law. Under the leadership of Governor Murphy, New Jersey is working to stabilize the market, to reduce premiums and to increase enrollment in health coverage in the state. The Department is committed to its work to ensure that New Jersey residents have access to quality and affordable coverage.” 

For the first time since the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014, the number of New Jerseyans enrolled in individual health plans in the first quarter of the calendar year, which includes consumers who newly enrolled and re-enrolled during the Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 open enrollment period, was down from the previous year. The total number of residents enrolled in Marketplace and off Marketplace plans for the first quarter of 2018 was 328,761 compared to 368,619 for the first quarter of 2017. This amounts to a 10.8 percent decline in enrollment. Total enrollment for the first quarter of 2016 was 359,173 and for the first quarter of 2015 was 326,528.

Governor Murphy recently signed two healthcare bills into law to continue an individual mandate in January of 2019 and to allow for the creation of a reinsurance program, contingent upon approval by the federal government of a 1332 state innovation waiver application, to help stabilize the insurance market and lower anticipated premium increases. The Governor has also committed to education and outreach regarding health coverage options. In January, he signed an Executive Order directing all state agencies that interact with the public to provide information regarding enrollment in the ACA Marketplace as part of state efforts to help as many New Jersey consumers as possible obtain insurance coverage. 

For what it's worth, last year, with the help of data from Mark Farrah Associates, I estimated the Q1 2017 NJ individual market at around 395,000 people (255K on exchange, 140K off-exchange), with around 37K of the off-exchange enrollees being in grandfathered plans. That means I estimated roughly 103K off-exchange ACA enrollees.

According to the table above, I was surprisingly dead on target for the off-exchange market but underestimated by around 10,000 for the on-exchange market as of the end of Q1 2017. Huh.