This past week the individual health insurance open enrollment period for 2018 closed in 39 states using the federally controlled insurance exchange called Healthcare.gov. We think that the trends favor growth in services like Freedom Benefits. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is charged with reporting on the results of that enrollment period. Associated Press dug into the enrollment data further and published some surprise results. Taken together with other previously released information, these are the trends in individual health insurance:
Overall, enrollment was unexpectedly strong considering the actions that factions of the federal government took to sabotage its own program. Without enrollment support, without advertising and with a short enrollment period almost 9 million signed up for coverage.
This insurance exchange is exclusively for working people with a suitable income. In most states, those who do not meet minimum earnings levels are not allowed to enroll through Healthcare.gov but instead are referred to state Medicaid programs.
Most applicants (about 4 out of 5) qualify for a reduced premium based on their earnings that keeps their total expense at or below 16% of household income.
The total enrolled is far less than the projections made by the Department of Human Services before the Trump administration took actions to sabotage the insurance program.
The Trump administration shortened the enrollment period and cut off advertising funding so that fewer people would sign up for their benefits. The strategy worked to some extent. Fewer people enrolled for health insurance in 2018.
Most Healthcare.gov enrollees (about 7.3 million of the total 8.8 million enrolled) live in rural working class areas that voted for Trump and Republicans in 2016. Political observers predict that the government’s efforts to cut the health benefits of the working class will hurt their chances in future elections.
Yesterday President Trump said that he hopes and expects that his party’s success in eliminating the tax penalty known as the ‘individual mandate’ will ultimately result in a collapse of these federally funded health benefits for working-class Americans.
The number of people in the U.S. without health insurance is rising again. This was the impetus that pushed us into health care reform from the 1960s through 2010. It’s difficult to believe that the problem will fester for another 50 years before the government takes action again.
The takeaways that are important for us at Freedom Benefits:
There is opportunity for year-round enrollment outside of the exchange open enrollment period.
The elimination of the individual mandate penalty means that it is no longer important that insurance meet federal legal requirements. Consumers are free to pick the insurance they want.
There will be demand for the lower priced insurance called skinny plans, short term medical, supplemental plans and limited benefit medical insurance.
The Trump executive order to promote the sale of insurance across state lines means that citizens in locations without low priced insurance may soon have other options.
I predict that most of the individual health insurance market will return to the private sector enrollment within a year.