California has frequently been cited as an early Affordable Care Act success story with enrollment coming at least closer to projected numbers than in other states. This week’s release of information from Covered California, the state entity organizing enrollment there, shows a mixed picture about the likelihood that the ACA will become a stable source of non-discriminatory relatively inexpensive health insurance in the nation’s most populous state.
A highlight from the report is that 79,891 have at least gotten as far as selecting a plan since enrollment opened on October 1, 2013. That’s better than any other state and better — at least as of the last report — of all the other states combined using the healthcare.gov portal.
And, because, contrary to the wishes of California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Covered California has decided not to permit those with recently enrolled in underwritten individual health insurance to “uncancel” policies that do not provide Essential Health Benefits, there is the potential to add more people to the Exchange pools than would otherwise be possible.
Additional good news: the pace of enrollment has picked up over the past two weeks.
Still, to date, the 79,891 who have at least selected a plan are only 6% of the 1.3 million that the federal government projected California would enroll through 2014. And the web site in California appears to be working acceptably.
A THCB reader writes in with a question and a pretty disruptive suggestion. @NorCal Exchange writes:
“I’m a small business owner. I’m also a card-carrying Democrat. Frankly, I’m pretty pissed off about the way things have gone with this roll-out so far. This was our one chance to get health reform right. And from what I can tell, we’ve totally screwed it up. Here’s one more thing a lot of the media coverage is missing. Even though THCB readers understand how open enrollment works, I’m guessing a lot of ordinary Americans don’t realize that under the new rules once they’ve applied for coverage they’re basically stuck with what they’ve got until the next enrollment period. This was a pretty big change in the first place. With all of this insanity, I’m guessing people are probably not reading the fine print and don’t know they’re locked in.
My prediction: there are going to be a lot of really unhappy people in the early part of 2014, when people realize what they’ve gotten themselves into. Why not allow people to change their plans? If you want an Amazon.com for healthcare, make the market for health insurance the same way as the market for anything else. If people decide to upgrade their coverage let them. If they get pissed at UnitedHealth’s customer service, let them cancel their policy and switch to AETNA or CIGNA. If I’m an idiot and don’t want preventative coverage let me build my own plan. If I’m worried that my daughter might get cancer let me add the Mayo clinic to my network. If my kid plays sports, let me add better ortho coverage. Yeah. Yeah. I know. This will turn the traditional underwriting model upside down. And a couple of health plans may even go out of business. But so what? My business may end up going out of business. These guys are smart. They’ll figure out twenty new ways to make money and they’ll end up thanking us for disrupting their precious monopoly …”