The old adage that nothing succeeds like success is holding true for Obamacare. Some holdout insurance companies have been convinced by the success of the first enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, and are planning to jump in
and apply to offer their plans on the health insurance exchanges.
“Insurers continue to see this as a good business opportunity,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year.” Eight million people have signed up for coverage in 2014, and estimates put next year’s enrollment around 13 million.
In New Hampshire, for example, where Anthem Blue Cross is the only insurer offering individual coverage on the state exchange, two other plans, both from Massachusetts, say they intend to offer policies next year. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a nonprofit insurer with 1.2 million members, said it expected to participate in the exchanges in both New Hampshire and Maine for the first time and to add Connecticut to the mix in 2016.
UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, which were notable in their caution about the exchanges last year, are expected to enter more markets this year. In Washington State, United is among four new insurers that have told state regulators they are interested in offering plans in 2015.
Add to those New York-based Assurant, which offers plans outside of the exchanges in 41 states and is looking to get on the exchanges in at least some of them "to serve more consumers and provide additional choice for customers purchasing on and off the exchange." Smaller insurers, like Harvard Pilgrim in New Hampshire, are planning to join in as are health cooperatives in a number of states. At the same time, two large companies—Wellpoint and Aetna—say they are likely to stay on the exchanges they are currently participating in.
This is good news for people in the individual insurance market, as increased competition always is. It's not an absolute guarantee that premium prices won't be dramatically increased next year, but is very likely to hold them down. Just like the market is supposed to work, which is why this was a health insurance reform plan Republicans could get behind—until a Democratic president introduced it.