California

Color me impressed!

Covered California Experiences Record-Breaking Enrollment for Consumers Seeking Jan. 1 Coverage

More than 55,000 Sign Up Over Two Days As Covered California Extends Deadline for Consumers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced Wednesday that more than 197,000 consumers had enrolled in health care coverage by the end of Tuesday, Dec. 15, including more than 22,000 on Monday and more than 32,000 on Tuesday.

The two-day total of more than 55,000 surpassed the enrollment figures seen last year during the same two day period when more than 35,000 people signed up for coverage on Dec. 14-15, 2014.

“The interest we have seen over the last two days is further proof of the continued demand that Californians have for quality, affordable health care coverage,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “We want to make sure that everyone who is working to get in the door has the time they need to get the coverage they deserve.”

This isn't particularly surprising now that HealthCare.Gov has already done the same thing, but it's still big news:

COVERED CALIFORNIA EXTENDS ENROLLMENT DEADLINE FOR JAN. 1 COVERAGE

Current enrollment surpasses last year’s demand

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Due to very high demand for health insurance through Covered California, the deadline to enroll for coverage starting Jan. 1 will be extended until Dec. 17 to accommodate the surge in interest.

The Service Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17.

“The spike in interest we are seeing in the last few days tells us there is continued demand for quality, affordable coverage,” said Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “We already have enrolled more consumers this year for Jan. 1 coverage than we did last year.”

Covered California has heard from our certified enrollers, including agents, that they still are processing thousands of applications and appreciate the additional time to ensure consumers receive coverage for all of 2016.

“We want to make sure everyone calling for coverage gets the help they need,” Lee said.

Just a quick hit: There's now just under 7 hours to go before the December 15th deadline for January 1st coverage (I'm assuming the actual deadline is midnight Pacific time?), and it looks like we've indeed reached the server capacity limits of HealthCare.Gov; it placed me on the "Waiting Room" screen for a solid 10 minutes before redirecting me to the account login page.

Meanwhile, Covered California just issued the following statement:

COVERED CALIFORNIA EXTENDS SERVICE CENTER HOURS UNTIL MIDNIGHT TO HELP CONSUMERS BEAT KEY DEADLINE

This Just in...another partial enrollment report from Covered California: 

COVERED CALIFORNIA ENROLLMENT EXCEEDS 140,000 AS CRITICAL DEADLINE FOR COVERAGE APPROACHES

Consumers Must Enroll by Midnight on Dec. 15 to Be Covered on Jan. 1

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With just one day remaining to enroll for health insurance starting in January, Covered California announced that more than 140,000 consumers had enrolled in coverage by the end of Sunday, Dec. 13.

“Once again, Covered California is seeing an incredible surge of interest, and thousands of people are enrolling at storefronts, insurance agent offices and community centers across the state every day,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “Everyone who needs health insurance, or knows someone who does, should know they can get financial help to pay for top-brand health insurance coverage, and if they enroll by Dec. 15, their coverage can start on Jan. 1.”

Although open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, 2016, consumers must enroll by midnight Dec. 15 to have their coverage start by New Year’s Day.

As I noted a few weeks ago, Covered California has an annoying policy (they did this last year as well) of not publicizing how many current QHP enrollees have renewed their policies (or switched to a different exchange-based one) until well after the December deadline has passed.

Unfortunately, this means that today's enrollment report figure is very misleading, as it only includes NEW enrollees added:

As of Monday, Dec. 7, more than 83,000 Californians had selected plans through Covered California since open enrollment began on Nov. 1.

“Thousands of people are signing up every day for Covered California, and we’re off to a good start to meet our forecasted enrollment of 295,000 to 450,000 new enrollees during this third open-enrollment period,” Lee said.

Covered California has a slightly annoying policy (they did this last year as well) of not publicizing how many current QHP enrollees have renewed their policies (or switched to a different exchange-based one) until well after the December deadline has passed.

Unfortunately, this means that today's enrollment report figure is very misleading, as it only includes new enrollees added:

As of Nov. 17, approximately 6,000 new enrollees had elected to purchase a family dental plan at the time of enrollment. In addition, more than 27,000 current members had chosen to purchase a family dental plan at the time of renewal.

Covered California also announced Wednesday that more than 34,000 new consumers had selected a health insurance plan through the exchange since open enrollment began.

Via press release:

COVERED CALIFORNIA RELEASES REPORT ON CALIFORNIANS’ KNOWLEDGE OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IN ADVANCE OF UPCOMING OPEN ENROLLMENT

Awareness of Covered California Is High, but Many Who Are Uninsured Still Don’t Know They Are Eligible for Financial Help to Buy Insurance

SACRAMENTO — With new research showing that many uninsured consumers who can benefit most still do not understand they can get financial help to buy health insurance, Covered California announced on Thursday that it will launch its third open-enrollment period Nov. 1 by spotlighting basic information about health insurance offerings, enrollment and care.

“We cannot ignore the reality that too many uninsured Californians still don’t know they can get financial help to buy brand-name insurance through Covered California,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “We are going to take to the airwaves and hit the road with a new campaign to make sure consumers know what we offer and where they can enroll.”

I planned on posting about this earlier today, but had to deal with a crisis for one of my Day Job clients (yes, I still have one believe it or not).

Early this afternoon, Covered California, the largest state-based ACA exchange in the country, held a conference call accompanied with a lengthy press release and a very nice slideshow full of pie charts and data points, giving a comprehensive overview of where things stand in the Golden State.

Hmmm...this is an unexpected development:

Looking to change health plans for 2016? Member renewal begins on October 12. http://t.co/3OVo9UaOpA pic.twitter.com/33eCPY0H5P

— Covered California (@CoveredCA) October 7, 2015

The tweet includes this graphic, which seems pretty clear cut to me:

I noted yesterday that 3 states (Maryland, Idaho and California) have already opened up window shopping to prospective 2016 enrollees.

However, it was my understanding that no one was allowed to actually enroll (ie, "select or renew a Qualified Health Plan") until 2016 Open Enrollment officially starts on November 1st.

A few days ago I noted that the Maryland Health Connection has officially launched window shopping for the 2016 open enrollment period (#OE3).

As it happens, at least two other state-based exchanges have done so as well:

COVERED CALIFORNIA: It's pretty obscure for the moment, but if you click the "Shop & Compare Tool" link at the lower left-hand corner of the CoveredCA website, you'll be given the option to shop around for 2016 plans (you can also choose 2015 plans in case you've had a qualifying life change and need coverage for the last 2 months of this year, or even 2014 plans if you still need that information for tax purposes or whatever):

YOUR HEALTH IDAHO:

Anonymously Shop and Compare Health and Dental Plans on Your Health Idaho

This Just In...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Line: (916) 206-7777 July 27, 2015

COVERED CALIFORNIA HOLDS RATE INCREASES DOWN FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR

Average Increase Is 4 Percent; Consumers Who Shop Can Lower Their Premium by an Average of 4.5 Percent

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced its rates for 2016 and unveiled which health insurance companies will be offering plans through the marketplace. The statewide weighted average increase will be 4 percent, which is lower than last year’s increase of 4.2 percent and represents a dramatic change from the trends that individuals faced in the years before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Over the past couple of months, the proposed 2016 individual & small business market premium rate filings have mostly been released. These are requests only, and have yet to be approved by state regulators in most states (Oregon and Kentucky are the only ones I know of which have actually approved theirs so far), but it at least gives us a general idea of where things are likely to stand next year.

One major exception to the above so far, however, has been California. The Golden State has been conspicuously absent in all of the 2016 Rate Review fuss so far. The rate review tool on their own insurance commissioner website only runs through 2015, and plugging in 01/01/2016 for California at HealthCare.Gov's rate review site brings up nothing either.

This AP article provides snippets about a handful of states; it'd be nice if they just released the actual report so we could see the hard expansion numbers (as opposed to the total increase numbers, which are still obviously useful but don't distinguish between traditional Medicaid and ACA expansion enrollees):

In Kentucky, for example, enrollments during the 2014 fiscal year were more than double the number projected, with almost 311,000 newly eligible residents signing up. That's greater than what was initially predicted through 2021. 

...At least 14 states have seen new enrollments exceed their original projections, causing at least seven to increase their cost estimates for 2017, according to an Associated Press analysis of state budget projections, Medicaid enrollments and cost details in the expansion states. A few states said they could not provide original projections.

Huh. This is kind of weird...two completely different stories, from two different reporters (although both are via the Associated Press) about the latest Medicaid expansion numbers from two of the largest states at opposite ends of the country: California and New York.

This wouldn't be surprising if there had been a major report/press release regarding Medicaid enrollment nationally broken out by state, of course, but as far as I know there hasn't been (the last report from CMS came out in early June, only runs through March and doesn't distinguish between "traditional" and "expanded" Medicaid anyway).

In any event, I'm happy to report that the numbers actually line up pretty closely with what I already had estimated for each state:

OK, this is kind of amusing. Over at right-wing nutbag-conspiracy-theory-repository/occasional-real-news site Breitbart.com, there's an attack piece hyping up the expected 2016 individual insurance market rate increases, based on various recent articles such as Robert Pear's piece over at the New York Times last Friday, which I talked about this morning.

Needless to say, being Breitbart, they lay on the "OMG!! SKY IS FALLING!! MASSIVE RATE HIKES!!" stuff pretty thick, and as I've noted repeatedly, in some cases that may very well be true. I didn't bother reading most of it since I already know what it says.

However, there's one rather curious passage which did catch my eye:

Regulators for Covered California, the largest Obamacare exchange with 1.4 million members, have been mum on just how big their premium rate increase will be. But with the exchange already expected to lose $78 billion in the state fiscal year that began July 1, there is no state money for extra subsidies.

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