December 14, 2014

DEFAULT THEM ALL INTO THE CHEAPEST PLAN AND MAKE THEM OPT OUT:

Many Choose Not to Save in the Health Marketplace (ABBY GOODNOUGH, DEC. 11, 2014, NY Times)

If they do nothing, most of the 6.7 million people who remained enrolled as of last month will automatically be re-enrolled in their current plans or similar ones. More often than not, the premiums for those in the most popular plans will increase, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform.

The Obama administration is urging them to shop around, and with good reason: Many can find a better deal or at least keep their costs steady. That is especially true in states like Arizona, where the competition is robust, new insurers have entered the marketplace, and the price for the cheapest plans in many areas has dropped.

At the same time, the availability of less expensive "benchmark" plans means that the federal subsidies that help many lower-income Arizonans pay their premiums will go down, because subsidies are pegged to those plans. That means customers who stay in more expensive plans will have to pay a larger share of the price.

Another potential problem is that subsidy recipients will receive the same amount in 2015 as they did in 2014 unless they ask for a recalculation. That means some people could be required to pay back part of their subsidy at tax time.

Despite those issues, the data so far suggests that many HealthCare.gov customers are keeping what they have and not even window-shopping. As of Dec. 5, only about 720,000 customers had returned to the federal exchange serving 37 states to re-enroll or switch plans, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Here in Arizona, insurance agents and enrollment counselors last week reported a steady stream of customers seeking advice. But the demand has not yet been huge, they said, indicating that many enrollees may be succumbing to inertia, are willing to pay more to their keep their networks and level of coverage, or are unaware that they have a choice. About 120,000 residents of Arizona signed up for exchange plans this year, according to federal data.

"I'm concerned about the confused," said Kathleen Oestreich, the chief executive of Meritus, a new insurer, which, after dropping its rates by 23 percent on average, is offering many of the lower-priced plans here for 2015. "That natural inclination to simply not change because it's too much effort: How will it affect the population of low-income people in particular?"

Shanna Goldenberg of Phoenix, who works two jobs and pays $160 a month for her exchange plan, said she had no idea if her premium was going up. But Ms. Goldenberg, 27, said she would probably let her plan be automatically renewed, because the enrollment process last year was so confusing.

Posted by at December 14, 2014 7:12 PM
  

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