More insurers will enter the marketplace next year

The health insurance marketplace will include 25 percent more insurers next year, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report released yesterday. The agency says the added competition will mean more choice and lower costs for consumers.

Seventy-seven new insurers will join the exchanges in 44 states for which the HHS has data. On, there will be 57 more insurers representing a 30 percent increase over last year, the report noted. And six new insurers will offer products in eight state-run marketplaces for which data are available, representing a 10 percent increase.  

"Major insurers that blanched at jumping into the exchanges in their first year, like United Healthcare, are making a big play for the business in 2015," Politico reported. United will offer plans in as many as 24 states, and Cigna and Aetna will increase their marketplace presence, the article noted. Further, 23 non-profit cooperative plans (Co-OPs) will sell products in 26 states.

Federal officials couldn't say what levels of coverage the new participants would offer or how much their products would cost, according to Kaiser Health News. And the report doesn't specify what counties the insurers will service, which is a factor that affects competition, KNN added. Further, the report is preliminary, and there could be more changes before the next open enrollment period.   

Nevertheless, the Obama administration sees the growth trend as a sign of healthcare reform's viability. "When you consider the law through the lens of affordability, access and quality, the evidence points to a clear conclusion: The Affordable Care Act is working," HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a speech to the Brookings Institution Tuesday. "And families, businesses and taxpayers are better off as a result."

But the law's Republican opponents still blame healthcare reform for rising costs, risks to the privacy of protected information and the sale of plans that don't separate abortion funding from taxpayer money as required by law, Politico added.                  

For more:
- read the HHS report (.pdf) and announcement
- here's the Politico article
- see the KHN article