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Early group health numbers show shrinkage

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Enrollment in employment-based health plans may be declining faster than Congressional Budget Office analysts thought it would. Analysts at Mark Farrah Associates have published data raising that possibility in a review of 2014 enrollment data.

The analysts used insurer data to come up with a count of insured plan enrollees, and company and industry sources to estimate the number of people in self-insured employer health plans, or “administrative services only” (ASO) plans. CBO analysts predicted the number of people in group health plans would fall just 0.3 percent, or 500,000, this year.

See also: CBO lowers PPACA enrollment projections

The Mark Farrah analysts found actual group plan enrollment may have fallen 2 percent, to 177 million in the first quarter of 2014, from 180 million a year earlier. Enrollment in ASO group plans rose 1 percent, to 119 million, but enrollment in insured group plans fell 6.5 percent, to about 57 million.

See also: Budget Analysts: Group Health Likely to Survive PPACA

The Mark Farrah analysts think the number of people with individual or family medical coverage increased about 16 percent, to 14.5 million. If the Mark Farrah numbers are correct, the increase in individual commercial health insurance enrollment has been smaller than the drop in commercial group health enrollment, and total enrollment in commercial plans has fallen about 1 percent.