Low turnout for subsidized exchange consumers

Only 30 percent of subsidy-eligible consumers have signed up for the federally-run health insurance exchanges as of Nov. 2, according to a new analysis from Avalere Health. That's a far cry from the predicted 84 percent of consumers who should ultimately qualify for subsidies.

The subsidy-eligible percentage is even lower among state-based marketplaces at only 23 percent of consumers, despite the fact that state exchanges have enrolled more consumers than their federal counterparts, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Avalere offered several explanations for the low turnout of subsidized applicants:

  • Eligible consumers, which the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines as individuals who create an account and verify their identify, haven't completed the exchange application process.
  • Subsidy-eligible consumers likely faced the technical glitches affecting HealthCare.gov, since that application process is more complex;
  • Outreach to subsidy-eligible consumers, who often have lower incomes, through awareness campaigns presents inherent challenges.

But Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson remains hopeful consumers who can receive subsidies will increasingly apply for exchange coverage. "The figures show the potential for increased exchange enrollment in the coming weeks as we get closer to the deadline for 2014 insurance" he said in the analysis. "As lower income Americans figure out that they have access to subsidized commercial insurance products, we can expect to see many enroll--irrespective of their politics."

In the midst of controversy about reinstating canceled plans, a new report by the consumer organization Families USA found only 0.6 percent of Americans under 65--about 1.5 million people out of 267 million--may lose their insurance and not qualify for reform subsidies or expanded Medicaid coverage.

To learn more:
- here's the Avalere analysis