HHS: Almost 57,000 Arkansans now enrolled in Health Insurance Marketplace | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

HHS: Almost 57,000 Arkansans now enrolled in Health Insurance Marketplace

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 1:40 PM

click to enlarge OPEN SEASON: HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell encourages enrollment in the insurance marketplace. - HUFFINGTON POST
  • OPEN SEASON: HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell encourages enrollment in the insurance marketplace.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which oversees implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare), says that 56,970 people in the state are signed up for coverage through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace (aka, "the exchange") as of Jan. 30. Nationally, the figure is 7.5 million.

Here's the weekly enrollment snapshot from HHS.

The open enrollment period for consumers to purchase individual insurance plans via the marketplace ends on Feb. 15, so HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell is urging folks still lacking insurance to sign up in the next 11 days. "88 percent of Arkansas consumers who have signed up for coverage qualify for financial assistance to help lower the cost of their premiums," she noted in a press release.

HHS also breaks down enrollment figures by metropolitan area for the first time. The release says "13,771 consumers in the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR local area selected or were automatically enrolled in a plan." (That means that over 3/4ths of people buying insurance on the marketplace in Arkansas live outside of the Little Rock area.) It Arkansas press release also notes that the Memphis metropolitan area includes 36,306 consumers covered, but I think it's safe to assume most of those are people living in Tennessee, not West Memphis. Figures for Northwest Arkansas aren't included.

Note that this is a distinctly different population of people than recipients of the private option, Arkansas's approach to Medicaid expansion. Well over 200,000 Arkansans are receiving insurance via the private option, which is available only to those folks making under 138 percent of the federal poverty line (138 percent FPL is around $16,000 for an individual in 2015). Private option beneficiaries have private insurance coverage that is fully paid for by the ACA.

In contrast, the consumers who buy insurance on the marketplace are people making above 138 percent of poverty. They may or may not receive a federal tax subsidy to help offset the cost of their premium, but as Burwell said, the majority are eligible for substantial assistance. The amount of subsidy is graduated depending on the individual's income. The HHS release says "77 percent of Arkansas Marketplace enrollees as of Dec. 2014 could obtain coverage for $100 or less after any applicable tax credits in 2015."

Last October, when the current open enrollment period began, there were around 38,000 consumers in the Arkansas marketplace (these are people who signed up in 2013-14; I was one of them). That means a little under 20,000 Arkansans have purchased individual plans during the 2014-15 open enrollment period.

I can't help but think that the 57,000 figure is on the low side. Mississippi and Kansas, both of which have comparably sized populations, have signed up 87,000 and 83,000 people, respectively.

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