Employer mandate delay will drive consumers into exchanges, experts say

Insurers likely will see even more consumers shopping for coverage on the health insurance exchanges after the Obama administration delayed the reform law's employer mandate.

The move could drive "a few million" more consumers to the online marketplaces, Larry Levitt, senior vice president for the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Bloomberg.

That's because employees who would otherwise have received health coverage through their companies will be newly in the market for insurance.

"Employees who do not receive coverage from their employers may be eligible to buy individual insurance policies on the federal or state exchanges instead, possibly with federal subsidies," Jackie Selby, member of the firm in Epstein Becker Green's healthcare and life sciences practice, told FierceHealthPayer. "So insurers offering individual products on the exchanges will probably get additional business as a result."

Even a marginal increase will help exchange-participating insurers, especially if the new consumers include young people like restaurant workers who will make their members less risky to cover, Jay Angoff, law partner with Mehri & Skalet who previously worked for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, told Bloomberg. "The insurance industry obviously has a huge economic interest in the exchanges working and getting people into the exchanges," he said.

Essentially, postponing the employer mandate makes the exchanges the "default position" for consumers without insurance through their employers. "This will drive more people into the exchanges, and that's good," former Gov. Howard Dean said.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article