Insurers fear shorter exchange enrollment period could hurt recruitment

Although insurers are still signing up new consumers for the current health insurance exchange enrollment period, they're starting to focus on next year's enrollment process to hopefully ward off major difficulties, the Associated Press reported.  

That's because some insurers worry that the Department of Health and Human Services' proposal to shorten the exchange enrollment period to just two months, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 15, could cause problems as they struggle to meet shorter deadlines to submit their plans and rates.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Hampshire, for example, worries that the proposed deadlines shift insurers' attention away from providing quality customer service to new members who are enrolling now.

"The way it's blurring together, I think we're pushing it," New Hampshire Blues President Lisa Guertin told the AP. "I think it starts to bleed into this (enrollment) period in a way that ultimately isn't great for consumers."

Guertin added that, if HHS finalizes the proposed enrollment period, insurers won't have sufficient claims data and other information from 2015 before they have to develop their 2016 plans, networks and rates. That will make it harder for consumers to shop, which is not what the government wants--HHS urged insurance customers to shop around, instead of automatically renewing their coverage, during the current enrollment period. 

"They should want a price that's not any higher than it should be or any lower than it should be," Guertin said of consumers. 

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny wrote a letter to HHS, expressing concern that the proposed timeframes could discourage some companies from selling plans on the exchange, the AP noted.

What's more, any new entrants to the exchange market could be severely hampered. Sean Caron of Massachusetts-based Minuteman Health told the AP that the compressed schedule puts the insurer and other new companies at a huge disadvantage. "We have no data to go off of, other than what we have seen in those first couple of months," he said.

To learn more:
- read the AP article