S&P says 2017 a 'one-time pricing correction' for ACA markets

Healthcare.gov counts 6.4 million sign-ups and climbing

Dive Brief:

  • Premium hikes in 2017 for the ACA individual markets are likely a "one-time pricing correction," according to Standard & Poor's Global Ratings, CNBC reported.
  • The report also predicts health insurers will begin to reverse the financial losses they experienced this year in the ACA markets. The report predicts next year will see the insurers that sell ACA plans "getting close to break even or better."
  • A total of 6.4 million consumers have signed up for health insurance on HealthCare.gov, for coverage starting Jan. 1 — 7% more than signed up a year ago, according to new enrollment data compiled by CMS.

Dive Insight:

The news is bittersweet as the GOP preps its plans for the ACA when president-elect Donald Trump takes office next month. As Bloomberg reported this morning, the GOP is looking into how to quickly reduce health insurance benefits under the ACA as well as the price of coverage premiums.

S&P notes this new reality of ACA uncertainty saying "what will happen in 2018 and beyond is somewhat uncertain at this time." CNBC reported S&P analysts note the forthcoming details and timing of an ACA replacement as well as the ability for payers to adapt to changes will be paramount for the financial strength of such companies going forward.

The report, alongside a CBO blog post from this week that noted minimal insurance products that would "not provide enough financial protection against high medical costs to meet the broad definition of coverage", muddies the waters for  clear and deliberate GOP ACA replacement plan. With more enrollees than ever signing up for such coverage and the potential for market stability in reach, the GOP has to ensure that the same or more individuals receive coverage and maintain a thriving, vibrant market to be seen as successful.

The biggest day ever for open enrollment was Dec. 15, the original deadline for Jan. 1 coverage, when 670,000 people signed up — up from 600,000 on Dec. 15, 2015, CMS data show. CMS extended the deadline by two days to accommodate the high level of demand, and the new data includes plan selections through Dec. 19. That could account for some of the dramatic increase in sign-ups versus 2015.

The record number of enrollees includes 2.05 million new customers and 4.31 million returning ones.

Efforts to make Healthcare.gov more streamlined and user-friendly also paid off, with a 36% jump in consumers signing up for coverage via mobile devices compared with last year, according to CMS. And mobile users were 28% more likely to enroll on Healthcare.gov than last year, the agency stated. 

Open enrollment continues through Jan. 31. CMS said it would release more detail reports including plan selections on both Healthcare.gov and the state exchanges before that deadline.

Filed Under: Health IT Payer Health Law
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