Healthcare.gov will recommend new plans to left-behind enrollees

Obama

The Obama administration will launch a strategy to keep consumers enrolled in public exchange plans even if their plans have been discontinued due to insurers' exits from the marketplaces.

Upon logging in to Healthcare.gov during open enrollment, such consumers will see a message that reads: “If your current plan isn’t available for 2017, an alternate plan is displayed for you to consider,” according to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services document obtained by FierceHealthPayer.

Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 15, these consumers will get at least seven “touches” or notifications about their plan options. 

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The next phase, between Nov. 16 and Nov. 21, will include three more touches, detailing the name of an insurer that can offer a comparable health plan as consumers’ previous discontinued plan. Consumers will receive a welcome packet and bill from the insurer, which CMS says consumers should keep until they’ve registered for 2017 coverage. There’s no requirement to pay the bill with the recommended insurer, but CMS will encourage consumers to make a final decision by Dec. 15.

In the final phases, CMS will reach out to consumers who aren’t actively looking for ACA plans up to 20 times urging them to renew coverage. Between Dec. 16 and Dec. 31, consumers with discontinued coverage will get at least five more reminders. 

The Obama administration hasn't disclosed how many people will receive the notices, but analysts project anywhere from several hundred thousand to more than 1 million, the Associated Press reported. Given that approximately 11 million people rely on the exchanges for coverage, the campaign targets less than 10 percent of ACA enrollees.

Cynthia Cox, associate director for the program for the study of health reform and private insurance at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told FierceHealthPayer in an email that “this policy may help boost the number of people signed up on the exchange,” since it will keep them from missing enrollment deadlines. Still, she noted that rising premiums may lower the incentive for some consumers to buy ACA plans.

“Regardless of whether it’s the insurer or the government automatically renewing customers, it’s still important for people to actively shop for coverage each year. Premiums and insurer participation are changing, as are individuals’ circumstances, so the plan that was best for you this year may not be the best plan for you next year,” Cox wrote.   

Lastly, Cox noted the effort is comparable to what private insurers regularly do: automatically re-enroll members into the same or similar plan when it’s time to pick a health plan, but consumers retain the liberty to switch plans.

Still, Elizabeth Carpenter of Avalere Health told the AP that "many consumers are likely to be wary of information from another insurance company," adding that some enrollees choose plans based on brand recognition  while others have a nuanced understanding of different benefit and network designs.  

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