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Exchange activity slows again

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Public health insurance exchange enrollment activity fell at both the federal exchanges and the state-based exchanges in February, but faster at the state-based exchanges.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says a total of 4.2 million people had selected a commercial “qualified health plan” through a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) public exchange by March 1.

PPACA exchanges have found 8.8 million people to be eligible to enroll in exchanges.

About 48 percent of the consumers who are eligible to enroll in QHPs have selected QHPs.

But only 1.5 million people got through the QHP determination process in February, down 30 percent from the number who got through the determination process in January.

Just 942,833 selected QHPs, down 18 percent from the January QHP selection total.

QHP selection activity fell 44 percent between December and January, in part because a well-publicized December enrollment deadline led to a spike in exchange activity in late December.

The number of people who got through the QHP eligibility determination process in February fell 15 percent at the federal exchanges run by HHS, to 1.2 million, and 61 percent at the state-based exchanges, to 269, 912.

The number of people who selected QHPs fell 8 percent at the HHS-run exchanges, to 681,498, and 35 percent at the state-based exchanges, to 261,335.

The state-based exchanges have persuaded 59 percent of the consumers who have qualified to buy QHP coverage there to sign up for QHPs.

At the federal exchanges, 44 percent of the eligible consumers have picked QHPs.

HHS is still using whether consumers have selected QHPs, not paid coverage sales, as the indicator of QHP enrollment activity.

Obama administration officials have said that the QHP insurers are responsible for collecting premium payment data at the HHS-run exchanges, and that the state-based exchanges or the insurers selling through those exchanges are responsible for reporting premium payment data at that level.

Some observers have speculated that actual paid QHP enrollment might amount to about 60 percent to 70 percent of the QHP selection total.

The Congressional Budget Office originally predicted that the QHPs would enroll 7 million people by the end of 2014. The agency recently cut projected QHP enrollment to 6 million.

The individual QHP open enrollment period started Oct. 1 and is set to end March 31.

Consumers who go through major life changes, such as divorce or the loss of a job, or who qualify for a hardship exemption, may still be able to buy QHP coverage after March 31. Unless HHS eases QHP enrollment rules, other consumers may have to wait until the fall for a chance to buy QHP coverage.

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