It’s not looking good for Obamacare in Alaska, or the rest of the nation, for that matter. According to one major health insurance executive, the Affordable Care Act is in a “death spiral.”
The 2017 enrollment period for the health insurance under the ACA ended on Jan 31 with just 9.2 million Americans in the 39 states using HealthCare.gov selecting a plan.
That’s off 4 percent from the 9.6 million who enrolled during 2016’s open enrollment.
Even as enrollments dropped, the US population as a whole grew at a rate of about 1 percent, pushing actual enrollment losses closer to 5 percent.
The final weeks of open enrollment told the story of a lapse in confidence in the program. While during the past three enrollment cycles, there has been a rush to enroll before the deadline, this year consumers said, “Meh.” The final two weeks had half as many people sign up as last year.
The 2017 health care plans cost more, too: They averaged 25 percent higher this year and there were 28 percent fewer companies to choose from in the government’s “marketplace.” This comes on the heels of steep cost increases in each of the previous several years.
Final Obamacare numbers will continue to roll in through the end of March. But early indicators show the program created by President Barack Obama when he signed the ACA into law in 2010 is ailing. The law passed with no Republicans voting in favor of it.
ALASKA’S NUMBERS: UP OR DOWN?
The federal government says 19,145 Alaskans purchased insurance during the 2017 open enrollment.
If that trend holds, the number of Alaskans who follow through and pay for their plans by the end of March will be significantly smaller than in 2016. The overall population of Alaska has held steady year over year.
Premera, the last insurer operating in the most expensive health insurance market in the world, this year sold policies to 12,334 Anchorage residents, 1,952 Fairbanks residents, and 866 Juneauites.
Alaska was nearly the smallest market in the nation this year, roughly tied with the State of Hawaii, which had 211 fewer enrollees than the 49th state.
Of the 19,145 Alaska enrollees, about half of them are enrolled in the Medicaid expansion program for those who are mainly lower-income workers. The 100 percent federal subsidy for Medicaid expansion ended in December, and Alaska has begun to pick up the costs for those enrollees.
For those who were not assigned to the Medicaid program, the average “silver plan” monthly charge went up by 26 percent to $741 in Anchorage, while Juneau’s rose 29 percent to $760 a month for a 27-year-old single person. 90 percent of enrollees received a government subsidy to help pay for their insurance.
AETNA, HUMANA EXITING
While Premera is the only company left in Alaska, other states are about to get a dose of the monopoly Alaskans already face.
Aetna, one of the major companies in the government’s health insurance exchange, indicated this will be its last year.
Aetna’s CEO called Obamacare a “death spiral” during a Wall Street Journal conference on the health care program. The company has left most of the markets where it once sold plans, and remains in just four states, among those Nebraska, where it is the last company standing in the public exchange. Aetna is still considering whether it will participate next year.
“My anticipation would be that in ’18, we’ll see a lot of markets without any coverage at all,” CEO Mark Bertolini remarked.
Humana has already decided to leave the Obamacare program next year. It is the first major company to pull out altogether.
“Based on our initial analysis of data associated with the company’s health-care exchange membership following the 2017 open enrollment period, we continue to see further signs of an unbalanced risk pool,” said CEO Bruce Broussard, during a Humana conference call with analysts on Tuesday. “Therefore, the company has decided that it cannot continue to offer this coverage for 2018.”
These astronomical annual increases in cost signify the slow, painful unraveling of the fundamentally flawed Obamacare system. It is now up to the Trump Administration and its allies in Congress to either overhaul Obamacare or replace it entirely with a new approach. We encourage the latter option.