Health insurance sales lag in Alaska this year



The cost of health insurance plans at are down for Alaskans, but so are the sales.

The five-week snapshot of Premera Blue Cross plans sold in Alaska on the platform show that 7,065 plans were sold Nov. 25 through Dec. 1. That compares to the same timeframe last year when 8,349 plans sold — a 15.39 percent drop in sales.

Open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. Those without health insurance have until Saturday to purchase coverage on the “marketplace,” which in Alaska is Premera.

The drop in sales could be attributed to two changes:

No individual mandate: The Trump Administration has eliminated the tax penalty in Obamacare that was part of the original legislation. If you don’t have health insurance and you choose not to buy it, the Internal Revenue Service will no longer penalize you.

No marketing by the feds: The Trump Administration spent only about $10 million marketing the health insurance open enrollment period. Before Trump took office, the Obama Administration was spending more than $60 million to encourage Americans to get covered.

What about prices? The Cost plans have improved this year. Premera filed with the State Division of Insurance for an average rate decrease of 3.9 percent for its 2019 plans. Last year’s decrease was 22.4 percent for individual plans.

The average monthly premium dropped from over $1,000 in 2017, to $770 in 2019.

But the trend for enrollment is also dropping.

During open enrollment last year, 18,313 Alaskans signed up, four percent fewer than in 2017.

Around the country, enrollment in Obamacare health insurance plans is lagging more than 11 percent from last year, but in Alaska it’s a more than 15 percent drop. Of course, this could be made up in the last week as the deadline approaches as consumers rush to get it before the enrollment period closes.

Nearly 85 percent of Alaskans who purchase health insurance through the federal website receive government subsidies through tax rebates.