With enrollment in the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act topping 7 million, Politico reports that “insurers see brighter Obamacare skies”:
Insurers saw disaster in the fall when Obamacare’s rollout flopped and HealthCare.gov was a mess. But a strong March enrollment surge, along with indications that younger and healthier people had begun signing up, has changed their attitude. Around the country, insurers are considering expanding their stake in the Obamacare exchanges next year, bringing their business to more states and counties. Some health plans that skipped the new marketplaces altogether this year are ready to dive in next year.
At least two major national insurers intend to expand their offerings, although a handful of big players like Aetna, Humana and Cigna, are keeping their cards close for now. None of the big-name insurers have signaled plans to shrink their presence or bail altogether after the first rocky year. And a slew of smaller health plans are already making moves to join more states or get into the Obamacare business for the first time.
More carriers and more competition could lead to lower premiums and more choices for consumers, as well as driving down the costs to the federal government of the subsidies to help low- to moderate-income people pay for their premiums. Ultimately, this is a state-by-state issue — while we often report on the big national numbers, there isn’t one big marketplace, there are 51 unique marketplaces. Here in Arkansas, the private option has saved the day, providing more than 100,000 customers (enrollment in the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace has otherwise lagged, with a little more than 40,000 enrollees). The state currently has four carriers (but only Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and the national BCBS are statewide, leaving many counties without much in the way of competition). One of the biggest questions for both the private option and the Marketplace will be whether the state can attract additional carriers in the coming years (and keep the ones here now).