William Tomasko: The New Grand Total: 14 Million People Signed Up To Get Covered Since October 1
We got a new Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment report from the feds this week, and it marks a new milestone. Between the health insurance marketplaces, Medicaid, and CHIP, 14 million Americans signed up to get covered between October 1 and the end of April. Compared to the sign-up stats from before October 1, Medicaid/CHIP enrollment has increased by 6 million people since open enrollment began on October 1, including 1.1 million in April alone.
In states that expanded Medicaid, enrollment increased by more than 15 percent, and sign-ups still increased by 3.3 percent in non-expansion states. It’s important to remember that even though open enrollment ended for the health insurance marketplaces on March 31, people can still sign up for Medicaid and CHIP at any time. So that 6 million figure will go up as the year goes on.
Health insurance companies suddenly want in on the ObamaCare action. With a difficult launch year out of the way, insurers are seeing a moneymaking opportunity in the federal healthcare program and are lining up to offer plans on the ObamaCare exchanges in 2015. In the 10 states where data is available, at least 27 new insurers have indicated they will offer plans on the marketplaces in 2015. Each additional carrier will expand the number of plans sold on the exchanges, since none of the carriers already offering plans have indicated they will drop out.
Healthcare experts, who had long predicted that more insurers would join ObamaCare in the second year, say major players in the industry can’t afford to stay on the sidelines after more than 8 million people signed up for coverage in 2014. “This is a very positive sign for the exchanges,” said Avalere Health President and CEO Dan Mendelson. “Companies that made a heavy initial investment, like Wellpoint, are staying in, and their more cautious competitors, like UnitedHealthcare, are now entering.” More competition on the exchanges could put downward pressure on prices and drive down the benchmark price for premium subsidies. The trend of insurers joining the exchanges is happening in regions across the United States.
The number of Ohioans enrolled into Medicaid has surged by more 308,000, following expansion of the program under health reform last fall. That increase includes roughly 184,670 Ohioans who are newly eligible for the program, according to data released. That’s more than half of the 366,000 newly eligible Ohioans that state officials expect will sign up for the program by June 2015.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states were given the option to expand Medicaid to individuals who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, or $16,104 a year for an individual. Previously, Medicaid excluded coverage for adults under 65 who did not have dependent children. Ohio and Kentucky are among 29 states that expanded the program beginning Jan. 1.
Dave Jamieson: Trader Joe’s Proves That Obamacare Can Free Us From The Wrong Jobs
Late last year, Melissa O’Rourke found out that her employer, Trader Joe’s, would no longer be offering health care coverage to part-time workers like herself. As of 2014, O’Rourke would have to find her own insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. She had spent about nine years working for the grocer — several years longer than she’d anticipated when she first came on. A change seemed long overdue. By the end of January, O’Rourke had enrolled in Obamacare and left the Trader Joe’s crew. “Honestly, the health insurance was one of the the few things keeping me there,” O’Rourke, 37, said. For decades, health coverage in the U.S. has been closely linked to employment. The vast majority of Americans have received health coverage through their jobs and will continue to do so in the Obamacare era. But they no longer have to. The idea was central to the president’s sweeping health care reform law: By “decoupling” insurance coverage from employment, you give people more control over their careers and their lives.
In O’Rourke’s case, the new coverage has given her the chance to become a full-time labor organizer. She’s wrapping up her undergraduate degree in labor studies and plans to help launch a worker center in Indianapolis. She said she probably would have left Trader Joe’s earlier, but persistent health issues made the idea of forgoing coverage unimaginable. Thanks to a subsidy, the monthly premium for O’Rourke’s new plan under Obamacare comes to less than $27. Under her group plan at Trader Joe’s, she said, she paid around $70 a month for comparable coverage. Bryce Williams, managing director at the human resources consultancy Towers Watson, said many part-time retail employees are seeing coverage for the first time in years. His firm has consulted for companies to help part-timers navigate the exchanges and find “the best bang for the buck” under Obamacare, he said.
Some workers may be paying more for their insurance under Obamacare but enjoying new opportunities at the same time. Edan Lichtenstein, 36, decided to leave his Trader Joe’s store in Washington, D.C., shortly after the company dropped part-timers from its plans. The plan he got on the exchange runs about $260 a month, and he didn’t qualify for much of a subsidy due to his freelance income last year. Even though he’s now paying more for coverage, Lichtenstein said his career is headed in a more appropriate direction. With a bachelor’s degree, he’d never intended to work on the floor at Trader Joe’s for the four years that he did. He “would have taken more risks, but there was the health insurance issue,” he said. After he left Trader Joe’s, he took a three-month course in writing code and building apps. He’s now working part-time at a startup and looking for a full-time job where he can use more of his education. Obamacare provided him with an opening to leave retail, and he’s grateful for it.