The Obama Administration’s release of HHS data Thursday, showing that exchanges set up under the ACA would offer many consumers more insurance options, saw wide coverage in the national media. In analyzing the White House memo , many of the outlets note that the increase in choice would likely spur competition, which could in turn lower prices. Still many cautioned that despite the uptick in options, one or two insurers could remain dominant in many states.
For its part, the AP (5/31, Kuhnhenn) reports that the Obama Administration’s memo showed that insurance companies “are showing interest in providing coverage” on exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act, a development which is “likely to increase market competition and give uninsured people more choices than they now have.” Indeed the data, released on the White House website, showed that “most of the consumers who seek insurance from federal- or state-run insurance markets will be able to choose from five or more different insurance companies” starting in October. The AP notes that this “upbeat assessment” comes as the Administration seeks “to counter Republican criticism of the law.”
USA Today (5/31, Kennedy) reports further on the data, which showed that when exchanges begin operations four months from now, “about 90% of Americans buying individual insurance from state health insurance exchanges will have at least five companies to choose from.” By contrast, most consumers have had just one or two options in the past. The article also notes that a total of 120 insurers have applied to sell on exchanges across the country.
The New York Times (5/31, Pear, Subscription Publication) adds that the memo read, in part, “The majority of states will have new health insurance choices that are not available today.” And, in about three-fourths of states with federally-run exchanges, “at least one new insurance company intends to enter the market.”
According to the Washington Post (5/31, Kliff) “Wonkblog” reports, it is unclear so far whether having a greater number of plans available in a state will cut into dominant insurers’ market share, driving down the price as the ACA intended. However, “the White House thinks it will.”
The Wall Street Journal (5/31, Radnofsky, Mathews, Subscription Publication) notes that the White House did not give specifics on which states would have many insurers on their exchanges and which would have fewer. To that end, the piece points out that so far, it has been announced that California will have 13 carriers competing, Washington state will have nine, Maryland five, and Rhode Island just two. The journal also adds that so far only one insurer has applied to sell on New Hampshire’s exchange.
Reuters (5/31, Morgan) notes that the data in the memo come from the states in which the Federal government will run the exchanges, coupled with the states running their own that have already released the relevant information. In total, the data account for 5.6 million people, or roughly 80% of those expected to purchase insurance in the first year of the program.
The Hill (5/31, Baker) “Healthwatch” blog notes that as this information is released, “the White House is facing a steep climb as it tries to turn around public opinion and encourage people to sign up for new coverage options, with full implementation just months away.”
The Huffington Post (5/31, Young) adds, “Although the federal government hasn’t completed contracts with health insurers under the law, the early signs are positive, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters at the White House on the condition they not be named or quoted.”
Still, Bloomberg News (5/31, Nussbaum) reports that UnitedHealth Group Inc. plans to offer coverage “in just a dozen of the U.S. health-care law’s new insurance exchanges, in the latest sign big insurers see little gain from quickly plunging into the new markets.” According to UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley, the insurer is taking a “watch and see” approach until the exchanges evolve.
Also carrying coverage of the memo and its implications are a second piece on the Washington Post (5/31, Kliff) “Wonkblog,” a second piece in Bloomberg News (5/31, Smialek), Politico (5/31, Haberkorn), CQ (5/31, Ethridge, Subscription Publication), the NPR (5/31, Rovner) “Shots” blog, and the Talking Points Memo (5/31, Perry).