Round two of policy enrollment on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges began this weekend and the main healthcare.gov website is functioning this morning. Later this week a House committee offers a reminder on last year’s exchange website opening failure in a hearing with the former chief federal technology officer about planning for the 2014 enrollment disaster.
In a Sunday interview, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell claimed that 100,000 people had submitted insurance applications over the weekend, though she did not elaborate on whether they were new polices or renewal applications.
The exchanges are challenged this year by higher expectations of enrollment activity. However, Burwell reiterated that an original estimate of 13 million enrollees has been reduced to less than 10 million. Also, Burwell did not directly address the topic of the cost of insurance plans and HHS released a trove of data on plan pricing only a few hours before the Nov. 15 exchange opening. An initial analysis by the Washington Post shows wide regional disparity of premium levels with increased premiums for many of the most popular policies offered on federal exchanges.
However, this year’s premium levels are largely based upon estimates compiled earlier this year and HealthBeat’s (@CQHealthTweet) Rebecca Adams reported (subscription) in April that insurance company financial risk protection provisions offered by the health law would likely minimize major price increases for 2015 plans. The insurer risk protection provisions are temporary and are also subject to likely congressional scrutiny next year. Additionally, actual consumer payments are also greatly aided by premium subsidies. The Supreme Court next year will weigh in on the legal applicability of the special tax breaks for policies purchased in states covered by the federal insurance exchanges.