Payer Roundup—Marketplace sign-ups decline; HHS tweaks Healthcare.gov

Healthcare.gov homepage
The new "Apply for Health Insurance" page on Healthcare.gov directs consumers toward agents and brokers. (Healthcare.gov)

2019 Marketplace enrollment statistics trailing those from last year

Open enrollment is quickly drawing to a close, and the latest data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suggest the number of people purchasing coverage on the federal marketplace is going to drop. 

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 8 this year, nearly 550,000 fewer consumers bought coverage on Healthcare.gov compared to the same time frame last year. This includes about 271,000 fewer new customers and 274,000 fewer renewals.  

None of the 39 states that use the Healthcare.gov platform have seen more enrollees this year than last year. Open enrollment ends on Dec. 15. (Release

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Healthcare.gov website altered shortly after open enrollment began

Key information about signing up for coverage vanished from Healthcare.gov this year just days after open enrollment began, according to a new report from the Web Integrity Project. 

Between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, the website was changed to list fewer ways to apply for coverage on its “Apply for Health Insurance” page. Before, the page listed five ways to apply for coverage:

  1. Online through a Healthcare.gov account.
  2. By phone. 
  3. With in-person help.
  4. Through an agent or broker.
  5. By mail.

(An archived version of this page is available here.)

Now, the website lists four ways: (1) find and contact an agent, broker, or assister, (2) have an agent or broker contact you, (3) use a certified enrollment partner’s website, or (4) use Healthcare.gov. 

The modified page also contains several links to a consumer assistance system that is operated by a third-party entity, not the federal government. 

This “reduces access to information and options for obtaining health insurance” and “ultimately amplifies the many other efforts by this administration to undermine Open Enrollment and access to health coverage broadly,” wrote Rachel Bergman, Web Integrity Project director. 

The Web Integrity Project is part of the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency organization. (Report - PDF

WellCare makes donation to foster youth in Arizona 

A recent move from WellCare aims to help vulnerable members in a state where it seems to be expanding its presence. On Wednesday, the insurer announced making a $500,000 donation to the Arizona chapter of First Star, Inc., an organization that supports high schoolers in foster care so they can transition to college or the workplace. The donation was made through the Wellcare Community Foundation. 

The WellCare Community Foundation works with “critical programs and social services that promote better health outcomes for our members and the communities we serve," said Rhonda Mims, executive vice president and chief public affairs officer of WellCare and president of the WellCare Community Foundation. 

In May, WellCare acquired certain assets from Phoenix Health Plan, which increased its Medicaid membership in the Grand Canyon State by 44,000 individuals. In October, the insurer also announced plans to open a regional office in Phoenix. (Release

Cigna offers group members financial services—for their health 

Cigna will provide certain financial services to its group plan members starting next year through its “My Secure Advantage” program, which it offers in conjunction with legal and financial services company CLC, Inc. 

Financial stress “can take a toll on a person’s health and well-being,” said Cigna President Bill Smith. My Secure Advantage aims “to help individuals take control of key aspects of their finances and help them improve their sense of security,” he added. 

My Secure Advantage includes 30 days of financial coaching, discounted tax preparation services, one half-hour complimentary legal consultation, templates for wills and other personal legal documents, and similar tools and services. (Release