About eight in 10 people who buy health insurance in Louisiana through the federal online marketplace can get coverage for $100 per month or less, after subsidies, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Louisiana consumers can choose from six insurers for coverage in 2015, up from five insurance companies a year ago, the report shows. Louisiana consumers also have more plans to choose from, an average of 44 statewide compared to 33 in 2014.
Nearly 102,000 in Louisiana enrolled for health insurance through the federal marketplace for 2014.
Open enrollment in the marketplace for 2015 began Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15. Some health care experts have predicted more Louisiana residents will sign up during the second year of “Obamacare.”
“It is going much better than it was last year. The website is working, and we appear to be firing on all cylinders,” said Billy Justice, spokesman for Vantage Health Plan.
Vantage enrolled 8,400 marketplace members last year and expects to double that number this year, Justice said. The company has enrolled roughly 600 new members so far, and inquiries by phone, email and at the company’s website have been high each day.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana spokesman John Maginnis said the company’s enrollment picture is incomplete right now, but the insurer has every reason to believe the process is going well.
“We’re enrolling hundreds of people every day,” Maginnis said.
However, in order to re-enroll in the marketplace, consumers have to go to HealthCare.gov, and HHS won’t be sharing the re-enrollment numbers until Dec. 26, Maginnis said.
Other companies offering coverage in Louisiana through the federal marketplace are UnitedHealth, Humana Health Benefit Plan of Louisiana and Louisiana Health Cooperative.
Tuesday’s report shows that most people won’t see large increases in the cost of marketplace plans.
The premiums for the second-lowest cost, or “benchmark,” silver plan on HealthCare.gov increased an average of 2 percent in Louisiana for 2015 coverage. Nationally, premiums for the second-lowest cost, or “benchmark,” silver plan also increased by 2 percent on average for 2015 coverage in 35 states. Both figures are before tax credits are applied.
Before the Affordable Care Act, people who bought health insurance plans in the individual market often saw double-digit rate increases. Those consumers had limited options for health insurance because insurers could deny them coverage or impose higher rates for pre-existing conditions and for being a woman. This year, consumers have the option to renew their current plan or shop around to select the plan that best meets their needs and their budget. A new window shopping tool at HealthCare.gov makes it easier.
In 2014, 88 percent of Louisiana consumers who got coverage through the marketplace received financial help. Consumers have until Dec. 15 to enroll if they want their coverage to begin on Jan. 1.
About 70 percent in Louisiana paid $100 or less per month, after tax credits, for 2014 coverage, which the HHS report said could go to 84 percent for 2015 with some shopping around.
The Health Department is encouraging returning consumers to shop, even if they like the plans they had for 2014. More than seven in 10 current marketplace enrollees can find a lower premium plan in the same metal level — before tax credits — by shopping, it said.
If all the returning consumers switched from their current plan to the lowest-cost premium plan in the same metal level, the total savings in premiums would be more than $2 billion nationally, the report shows.
To preview plans, prices, covered benefits and physician and hospital networks, visit www.healthcare.gov/find-premium-estimates/
Consumers can find local help at localhelp.healthcare.gov or call the federally facilitated Marketplace Call Center toll-free at (800) 318-2596. TTY users should call (855) 889-4325. Translation services are available.