Insurance Companies Concerned About Health Care Website

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 12:00 am  

Michael Stock, president and CEO of QualChoice. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Two months after the launch of the health insurance marketplace website, Arkansas insurance companies are still concerned about it.

About 200,000 to 250,000 Arkansans were estimated to have their private insurance paid for completely thanks to the “private option” expansion of Medicaid. Others could qualify for federal tax credits they could use to buy policies through the health insurance marketplace that opened on Oct. 1.

But the government’s website, HealthCare.gov, didn’t work as promised, and its shortfalls have been well documented by critics of the Affordable Care Act.

Michael Stock, president and CEO of QualChoice of Little Rock, told Arkansas Business that at first, he thought that maybe 50,000 to 60,000 Arkansans would have signed up through the website by the close of the open enrollment period on March 31.

“I’m extremely doubtful that we’ll get to those numbers,” Stock said.

As of Nov. 2, the most recent numbers available, only 250 people were able to buy insurance through the website.

Stock said on Nov. 22 that QualChoice has about 100 people enrolled through HealthCare.gov, and “that’s pretty small.”

Even more troubling is the fact that the people who took the time to tackle the website “are probably the people who need the insurance really bad,” Stock said.

If more people don’t enroll for health insurance, premiums could climb in 2015, he said.

“The rates that we set following all the rules that the law laid out did not contemplate that only a very small number of sick people would enroll,” Stock said.

He said QualChoice thought there would be a mixture of young and old and sick and well policyholders. “At this point, that doesn’t appear as though that’s going to happen,” Stock said.

Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield also said it’s not seeing the number of new customers it expected. As of Nov. 22, more than 400 people had enrolled, which is less than it wanted, said Max Greenwood, a spokeswoman for ABCBS. She wouldn’t say the exact target number ABCBS was looking to have.

She also had concerns with HealthCare.gov.

“If people cannot get the information as to whether or not they qualify for a subsidy, that makes it difficult for them to make choices,” she said.

Greenwood said that she’s pleased, though, that the site has improved since its launch. “It’s not as difficult as it was, but there’s, obviously, still issues that are out there,” Greenwood said.

Both ABCBS and QualChoice said they will assist people who want to enroll in health insurance. “We’re just not able to tell them if they’re eligible for a subsidy or not,” Stock said. “And we can’t guarantee they’re going to get a subsidy.”

A person needs to buy the insurance through the health insurance marketplace to get the subsidy.

 

 

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