It's been just a shade over a week since the second open enrollment period began for Obamacare (officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), and all signs suggest things are going much better this year than they were shortly after open enrollment kicked off in 2013.
Last year's open enrollment period was marred by technical glitches galore for the federally run Healthcare.gov health insurance exchange, with a bevy of state-run health marketplaces facing their own problems. With a year's experience under their belt, and for the most part ample time to test their platforms, marketplace architects appear to have a good grasp on things.
Of course, having a working marketplace is just one of many things that must go right in order for Obamacare and insurers to be successful in their efforts to enroll millions of currently uninsured Americans this time around, as well as retain millions more that might be renewing their health insurance for the first time ever.
Obamacare by the numbers
With that in mind, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at 10 figures that I suspect could sum up Obamacare's second enrollment campaign, which continues through Feb. 15. Of course, please keep in mind that we're only a few days into the open enrollment period, so anything can, and probably will, happen.
7%: The average premium increase for an automatically renewed silver plan (the most common plan tier purchased) on the federal exchange.
This will be a critical year for insurers, as it's the first time under Obamacare that they will need to coax current members to stay put. As it stands now, most states will automatically renew consumers into their existing plan if they do nothing. That would mean a 7% premium hike for millions of consumers who purchased a silver plan through Healthcare.gov last year and do not change their plan during this enrollment period. This increase is higher than some optimists had likely expected, but also points to the feeling-out period insurers are still battling through, with many entering the individual market landscape for the first time.
9: The number of states on the federal exchange where silver premium prices are declining.
Although premium prices are on average rising, according to an analysis conducted by The Washington Post using data gathered from Healthcare.gov, nine states on the federal exchange will in 2015 decrease silver plan premium prices. Illinois, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Virginia will show declines of at least 6% in premium costs, while residents of New Jersey, Kansas, Georgia, Arkansas, and Michigan will see declines of 1%-5%.
25: The number of states on the federal exchange in which silver premium prices are rising.
While many silver plan premium price increases have been modest, the same Washington Post analysis found that seven states will see silver plan premiums rise by a minimum of 11%. These states are Nebraska, Iowa, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alaska, which had the biggest silver plan increase in the nation at $301 per month, or 32%.
25%: The increase in the number of insurers offering plans on Obamacare exchanges in 2015.
Including both the state exchanges and Healthcare.gov, the Department of Health and Human Services announced in September that it expected the number of insurers participating in Obamacare to increase by one-fourth in 2015. This is important because health insurance still operates on the principles of supply and demand. In states such as Alaska where there are few plan alternatives and access to healthcare facilities is limited, it can cost an arm and a leg to get insured. In more populated areas where more than a dozen insurers are competing for consumers' business, they're liable to get a far lower premium price.
37%: The number of respondents in one poll who have a favorable view of Obamacare.
Based on a Gallup poll released this past week, just over one-third of respondents said they approved of Obamacare, while 56% disapproved of the health reform law. For context, public sentiment has almost always leaned toward opponents of the law, so the result of Gallup's poll wasn't a huge shock. However, the 37% approval rating marks the lowest on record for the law as Congress (in which both chambers will be led by Republicans come January) looks to modify certain aspects of Obamacare.
66%: The number of people who anticipate switching their Obamacare plan in 2015.
According to a recent survey by Radius Global Market Research, even though 80% of respondents said they were satisfied with their health plan in 2014, two-thirds intend to switch plans in 2015. Most consumers believe they can get better value by shopping around and intend to channel their inner cost-consciousness during this enrollment period. I believe this could be beneficial to national insurers such as UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) and Aetna (NYSE:AET), which mostly stayed on the sidelines last year and can now enter states where prices are rising and look like the hero, as well as low-income insurers such as Molina Healthcare (NYSE:MOH) which is targeting that cost-conscious bronze-level consumer and attempting to diversify its business beyond just Medicare and Medicaid.
87%: The percentage of shoppers on the federal exchange last year who received financial assistance in paying for health insurance.
Though this figure is likely to change in 2015, it's worth noting that subsidies play a critical role in encouraging young adults to enroll and in making health insurance affordable for millions of federal exchange enrollees.
It's also worth paying attention to the Supreme Court's decision next June on whether subsidies being paid to residents on Healthcare.gov are legal. In total, we're talking about subsidies paid to nearly 5 million people last year, and which could ultimately determine Obamacare's fate.
90%: The number of consumers who will have at least three plans to choose from on Healthcare.gov.
A 25% boost in insurers means more choices for consumers. Within Healthcare.gov, based on data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the number of consumers with access to no less than three plans will rise significantly from just 75% last year. Though having more competition might not necessarily mean a drop in premium prices, it should provide some level of premium cost control that will help the consumer in 2015 and perhaps over the long run.
$111: The average monthly premium price increase for a platinum tier plan.
While pricing for silver and bronze plans are increasing by an average of 7% on the federally run exchange, platinum tier premiums are rising by a whopping 15%, or $111 per plan. Though platinum plans cost the most up front and might seem like the most lucrative of plans for insurers, they also come with little in the way of out-of-pocket costs for the consumer. In other words, people who go to the doctor often or who have chronic conditions would be wise to get a platinum or gold plan.
In actuality, insurers would love it if people continued to buy silver and bronze plans, which require more out-of-pocket money on the consumers' end and leave them more selective about when to see their doctor.
9,000,000-9,900,000: The number of forecast total enrollees in Obamacare by year's end.
This last figure, issued by the HHS, was reduced by more than a quarter from the 13 million enrollees the Congressional Budget Office had initially predicted. Health and Human Services reduced its estimate on account of slower than expected transitioning from employer-sponsored insurance and private exchanges to the online health marketplaces. Some might view this reduction as a major disappointment, but as long as consumers are covered through private insurers or their employer, then it winds up being a positive wash in the end.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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