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Health InsuranceAccording to the preliminary data released by the Department of Health and Human Services, consumers will probably have wider choices while shopping for affordable coverage at the health insurance marketplace in 2015.

Reports suggest that there will be 25% increase in the total number of health insurers offering marketplace plans (from 252 insurers in 2014 to 316 in the upcoming 2015 enrollment period) over the previous years. It is estimated that a total of 77 new insurers will enter the marketplace in 2015 while 14 are dropping out.

The officials at the Health and Human Services (HHS) consider the sudden boost in the number of insurers willing to sell the new form of insurance (starting November 15) as a sign of the huge success of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). When considering the law on the grounds of access, affordability and quality, it can be clearly concluded that the ACA is working.

During the initial years of operation, many of the largest insurers in the nation followed a very careful approach to Obamacare by offering just a handful of plans in certain states. With more than 7.3 million people getting enrolled in these plans, many insurers see huge potential and profits on the exchanges.

The enrollment season begins on November 15 and ends towards mid- February 2015, for most Americans to shop for health insurance coverage and apply for tax credits (related to the cost of premiums). The HHS report evaluated the preliminary data from more than 36 states run or fully supported by the federal government (federal marketplace). In addition, it also looked at the data from 8 states operating state-based market places and finds that a bigger portion of issuers will be offering in the marketplaces in 2015. The key highlights of the report are mentioned below –

  • The federal marketplace reports 57 more number of issuers or insurance companies in 2015, a 30% net increase over this year.
  • Eight states running their own market places report an increase in insurer participation from 61 to 67 in 2015, a 10% net increase over this year.
  • 77 insurers will offer coverage in 2015 in 44 states (for which there is data),
  • Some insurers only offer plans in certain states. Four states namely Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire and West Virginia out of 36 in the federal market place will have double the total number of issuers that they had in 2014. Further, 36 states nationally will have at least one new insurer.
  • On the other hand, California is the only state showing a decrease in the number of issuers from 12 to 10. Even amidst the decrease, California market is one of the most successful of the Obamacare exchanges (reporting the highest number of total enrollees of any state – 1.4 million and the second highest percentage of sign-ups among the eligible population at 42.7 percent).

Price plays a significant role in determining the total number of people who will get enrolled in health benefit plans this year or drop out of these plans. A new poll by the "Transamerica Center for Health Studies" found that about 22% of uninsured Americans did not obtain coverage this year as they were not fully aware about the individual mandate to obtain the same or pay a fine equivalent or up to 1% of their income. Another 43% of uninsured people had not even heard about Obamacare exchanges. This might create a hurry up and sign up for a new plan as soon as they can creating problems for physicians and hospitals as they go through their patient load and do insurance verifications, authorizations and proceed to medical billing.

The HHS report suggests that the number of insurers entering the marketplaces in 2015 has increased significantly. Further, some of the industry’s biggest players are also jumping in for the first time. The sheer increase in marketplace competitions may provide consumers with more number of options to choose from. However, the final question that remains is that whether the increased competition will help to keep premiums in check.