State-level Strategy Alignment Could Boost Affordable Care Act Enrollment

State insurance departments begin to align Affordable Care Act tips with CMS efforts.

Louisiana’s Department of Insurance recently began providing tips for individuals seeking plans during Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment, some for the first time.

The Affordable Care Act exchanges provide insurance coverage for individuals who do not qualify for public insurance options, such as Medicare or Medicaid, and do not have employer sponsored insurance.

Healthy Louisiana, the state’s Medicaid program recently had great success with expansion, and enrolled 278,000 new enrollees in a little over a month. The state is now providing the people who do not qualify for Medicaid with tips and recommendations for navigating the Open Enrollment period, according to a press release from Louisiana Department of Insurance.

With the uninsured rate the lowest it has ever been, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has created new ways to engage individuals who are still uninsured, including additional mailings and campaigns to target this population.

These tips from the Department of Insurance are highly aligned with the CMS 2017 outreach campaign strategy, which could prove beneficial for the Department of Insurance. In the press release, the Department of Insurance uses a variety of techniques that CMS recently said they will be starting to use or continuing to use to increase enrollment.

For example, the first thing the press release discusses are the Open Enrollment dates, which CMS disclosed as a driver of enrollment. They also discussed costs of plans and potential subsidy options for individuals.

A common misconception about Affordable Care Act plans are that they cost hundreds of dollars per month, and there is no financial assistance available. The CMS said that emails regarding financial assistance increased enrollment by 17% compared with emails that did not mention that information.

The Louisiana Department of Insurance said in their press release that premiums did increase by 27%, but 89% of individuals who enrolled in 2016 plans received subsidies, which covered 80% of the premium.

Both the CMS and the Department of Insurance suggested that individuals shop around and compare plans, rather than stay enrolled in a plan with a premium that increased drastically.

“Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to look through all of the options to be sure that you are getting the health plan you need,” said Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. “Pay attention to the doctors and facilities that are part of each network. A licensed health insurance agent can help you explore your choices and also help you determine if you’re eligible to receive financial assistance paying your premium.”

The Department of Insurance also said individuals should consider whether a health spending account is a viable option. These accounts allow individuals to use pretax money to cover premiums, deductibles, and over-the-counter medications, and the funds can carry over from year-to-year.

Individuals are also reminded by the Louisiana Department of Insurance that there is a fine of 2.5% of yearly income or a fee for each person who is uninsured. By aligning their goals with the CMS initiatives and goals, it is expected that Louisiana could potentially see an increase in enrollment for the coming year, according to a press release.

“As the offerings, companies and premiums can change year to year, it’s a good idea to consult an expert if you have questions about selecting a plan,” Commissioner Donelon concluded.