District of Columbia: @DCHealthLink releases 2021 OEP report; up slightly y/y

DC Health Link, the District of Columbia's ACA exchange, has released a new 2021 Open Enrollment report, and while the numbers aren't surprising, they're also a bit fuzzy for a couple of reasons.

Officially, the new report states that 19,997 DC residents selected an individual market ACA exchange plan, up just 65 people over last year's 19,932 (+0.3%). However, there's several factors which make this a bit misleading:

  • First, the thru date for both 2021 and 2020 is February 5th, not the official Open Enrollment Period deadline of January 31st for both years.
  • Second, the COVID19 Enrollment Period this year makes the "official" time window a bit harder to compare, since unlike most states, DC's COVID enrollment has been ongoing. That is, in most states Open Enrollment was cut off on 12/15 or sometime between then and the end of January before re-opening, but in DC (as well as CA, NY and MD), there was no gap between the end of one and the start of the other.
  • Third, and most importantly, there's a significant discrepancy between what the DC exchange reports in these updates and what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) say in their official annual OEP report, which is the number of record. Last year, for instance, they put DC's QHP tally at just 17,538...a full 12% lower than the DC exchange claimed.

Normally I'd say this gap is due to those not paying their first monthly premium, but the CMS report is supposed to reflect QHP selections, not effectuations, which are always a smaller number. Furthermore, the new DC report lists 2021 effectuations as just 16,240...up 1.1% over last year's 16,060 effectuations as of the same date (Feb. 5th).

While I don't know what accounts for the difference, it's safe to say that the official CMS number will definitely be lower than 19,997, and will likely be somewhere between 0.3 - 1.1% higher than last year's official 17,538 figure. The midpoint would be +0.7%, or around 17,660.

Until I hear otherwise from DC Health Link or the CMS report, that's what I'm going with for now.