By Richard Cauchi
The last six weeks of 2014 bring more than Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays.
Beginning Nov. 15, health insurance exchanges or “marketplaces” begin a three-month open enrollment period for the second year of insurance coverage in all 50 states. In good news for many consumers, the number of health insurers offering plans through exchanges will increase substantially nationwide. Increased choice and competition may lead to lower premium costs as well as wider selections of health providers.
Based on a recent HHS health insurance report covering 44 states, 252 insurers offered plans through marketplaces in 2014. Current projections forecast that 315 insurers will offer plans in those states in 2015.
Of course, for health consumers and purchasers the all-important numbers are the ones that apply to them locally. Eleven states will see no change in the number of insurance carriers. The largest increases come from a diverse set of states. Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Texas each will have four new insurers participating in their marketplaces. Indiana will see the largest increase, from four insurers to nine.
For the state-regulated exchanges that have announced results, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Washington will each have two new carriers in 2015. The number of plan issuers will at least double in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire and West Virginia. Of the 44 states reporting early, only California had a net loss of insurers, dropping from 12 in 2014 to 10 next year.
Within each state, policymakers and consumers want to know which companies and which products are available for 2015. The biggest change among major insurers resulted from UnitedHealth’s expansion from four states in 2014 to at least 24 for 2015. Assurant Health/Time Insurance Co., which did not participate in marketplaces this year, will offer plans in 16 states next year.
View Your Region
The accompanying NCSL map allows comparisons by state. A more complete listing of individual companies by name and state is now available in NCSL’s online exchange report.
The all-important premium rates for each plan, featuring rates from both current and new insurers, will be available by early November. A 50-state interactive map by The Commonwealth Fund will compare 2014 to 2015 premiums in federal and state-run exchanges. A new report series by MIT economist Jon Gabel and a team at University of Chicago offers an advance look at insurer and market changes in the first states with complete premium charts. So far, state premium examples include Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington.
Timing is everything
New, first-time enrollees can sign up anytime between Nov. 15, 2014, and Feb. 15, 2015, but those already enrolled for 2014 will have only a month, from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, to re-enroll or switch plans to make sure their coverage restarts on the first of the new year with no gap between policies. Those who don’t actively select a 2015 plan will be automatically re-enrolled in their existing plans
Richard Cauchi covers health insurance reforms for NCSL.