ACA exchange plans popular among low-income customers eligible for subsidies

As the Obama administration gears up to encourage low-income individuals to get covered, a new report suggests that these consumers actually already are the most likely to purchase health plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

Open enrollment on the ACA exchanges officially begins Sunday, and as the federal government strives to reach the remaining uninsured, it plans to run television ads that emphasize the fact that most who sign up for coverage on qualify for financial assistance, the New York Times reports. One of the ads, notes the Washington Post, targets a particularly hard-to-reach demographic, featuring a Hispanic chef and a waitress discussing the merits of getting insured.

Yet a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds in states that use as their exchange, 62 percent of people eligible for tax credits and who have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)--which equates to about $47,800 for a family of four--signed up for an ACA plan in 2015. That's compared to a mere 29 percent of those earning 200-300 percent below the FPL and 13 percent of those earning 300-400 percent below the FPL.

An accompanying report on five states with high marketplace enrollment notes these states featured coordinated outreach efforts and well-functioning websites; while another report finds that five select low-enrollment states experienced IT problems, a shortage of enrollment assisters and a higher focus on Medicaid enrollment.

"Enrollment among the eligible depends on many factors, the most important of which is price," Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement about the report emailed to FierceHealthPayer. "The choices in the marketplace, functionality of the website and quality of outreach all have an impact, but in every state we find enrollment drops off sharply for individuals at higher income levels where subsidies are lower."

Previous research backs up the fact that ACA exchange customers are not only well-informed but highly concerned with price. In fact, a recent report found that many consumers say the highest-cost monthly premium they can afford is $100--though the study also highlights how much more affordable subsidized exchange plans are than non-subsidized ones.

To learn more:
- access all three reports
- read the New York Times article
- here's the Washington Post report

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