The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) public exchange system seems to have rolled up to its first major open enrollment period deadline with good numbers.
The second annual PPACA open enrollment period started Nov. 15.
In most of the country, consumers who wanted to buy new private qualified health plan (QHP) coverage through a public exchange, or change existing QHP coverage, had to get their applications in by Dec. 15 to have the new QHP coverage take effect by Jan. 1, 2015. Open enrollment for coverage that takes effect sometime in 2015 ends Feb. 15. After that, people who want coverage will have to go through medical underwriting to buy temporary health insurance or apply for permission to buy major medical coveage through the PPACA special enrollment period (SEP) system.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it had recorded QHP selection information for about 2.5 million people by the end of the day on Friday. Exchange managers said call center and website activity was high over the weekend.
The state-based exchanges have taken in QHP selection information for more than 1 million other people.
The QHP selection figures for the HHS exchanges include only people who used the HealthCare.gov enrollment system to buy coverage or change their QHP selections. Once HHS adds people who are keeping existing QHP coverage to the total, it may find that exchange QHP had already enrolled about 7 million people in QHP coverage as of Dec. 15.
HHS has said it hopes to have 9.1 million people enrolled in public exchange QHPs by the end of 2015. Some are suggesting the total could be closer to 12 million.
Executives at HealthCare.com — a private insurance marketing company with a strategically named website — have provided independent confirmation of the strength of interest in the major medical open enrollment period.
Many HealthCare.com products are supplemental products that can be sold outside the open enrollment period. But, even there, referral volume for the week of Dec. 5 was 60 percent higher than referral volume for the three-week period before open enrollment began, the company says.
Can the public exchange system stay hot?
Caroline Pearson, an analyst at Avalere Health, says the public exchange system may cool off in the coming months now that it has already attracted the easiest-to-reach prospects.
For a look at some of the reasons why the public exchange system might lose some of its current geyser-like steam, read on.