Blue Cross Blue Shield is adding nearly 2 million to the tally of customers buying insurance outside the Obamacare exchanges, a group that has been largely overlooked in the debate over enrollment numbers.
The association said Thursday that 1.7 million off-exchange customers enrolled in Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans compliant with the health care law between Oct. 1 and March 1. The total does not include the final month of the open-enrollment period, which ended Monday.
The figure is the largest yet in the limited data available on the Affordable Care Act’s reach beyond the federal and state-based marketplaces.
The Obama administration announced this week that 7.1 million individuals have enrolled in private coverage through the ACA exchanges, surpassing the Congressional Budget Office’s original target. The total has been hotly debated, with critics and supporters alike pointing out that we still don’t know how many consumers have paid their first-month premiums (estimates have hovered between 80 and 90 percent), or what the breakdown of age and health status is of those enrolled. These are all important in evaluating the number actually getting coverage and the security of the risk pools.
Yet one of the biggest question marks has been largely excluded from the conversation, and it could add millions to the overall enrollment tally.
Off-exchange enrollment — directly with insurance companies or through private brokers and online sites — allows consumers to bypass the sometimes-troubled exchange websites to purchase coverage. They are not using the new enrollment vehicle, but they are often buying the same plans, and are part of the same risk pools, with the same impact on premium costs.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield total significantly increases the off-exchange total thus far.
Washington state — one of the only to release this data — had seen more than 180,000 people enroll in plans off the exchanges by the end of February, more than the 125,000 paid enrollments on the exchange as of March 23.
WellPoint has reported that as of the end of January, about 100,000 of its new customers did not enroll through the ACA’s exchanges. Highmark said that as of mid-February, more than 35,000 people who bought ACA-compliant plans enrolled directly with the insurance company.
Reports indicate off-exchange enrollment could also have a healthier enrollment pool.
Online broker eHealth has had about 170,000 people apply for plans from October to December, and has found that its mix of enrollees skews significantly younger than the overall exchange total: About 45 percent applying through the company are in the 18-to-34 age bracket, compared with around 25 percent on the ACA marketplaces.
Blue Cross Blue Shield says they do not have information on the age or health status of the off-exchange enrollees, or on how many were new customers.
What We're Following See More »
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."
"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.