Insurers could soon add millions of new members in upcoming months, since tens of thousands of consumers still haven't completed their health insurance exchange enrollment. What's more, millions of consumers have foregone the exchanges to sign up directly with insurers, which haven't been included in enrollment figures.
In California, about 30,000 people are waiting to finish their application, while Connecticut has about 7,000 consumers still in its queue. If California is any indication of the amount of consumers still waiting to complete their exchange enrollment, about 178,000 people could be trying to sign up for insurance across the country, Reuters reported.
The federal government has extended the enrollment deadline to mid-April to allow these consumers additional time to finalize their applications.
Another source of membership for insurers comes from consumers who have signed up outside the exchanges. Highmark, for example, said about 30 percent of its 133,000 members enrolled since mid-March signed up off the marketplaces. And WellPoint said about 20 percent of its new enrollees signed up directly with the company, reported the New York Times.
"These lives count every bit as much as the ones that came in through the exchange" because all consumers are placed in the same risk pool, Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Times.
However, these off-exchange sign-ups are likely older and more expensive to insure. That's not necessarily bad if insurers set their premium prices appropriately, said Ana Gupte, an analyst with Leerink Partners, reported the Times.