Report: Competition fluctuates in exchange markets

Health insurance exchanges have had mixed success in boosting competition in different insurance markets, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Analyzing data from the seven states that have published their enrollment figures, Kaiser researchers found that some states, such as California and New York, have much more competitive insurance markets than they did before the exchanges opened. But other state markets, including Connecticut and Washington, are actually less competitive than they were a year ago.

"There are some examples of smaller or newer plans being able to get a sizable piece of the market in the exchanges, but by and large a lot of the players in the exchanges that are the biggest [now] were the biggest before," Cynthia Cox, a senior analyst at Kaiser, told Bloomberg.

In California, for example, Anthem Blue Cross previously held 47 percent of the market for private plans in 2012, which dropped to 30 percent in the state's online marketplace. That's a change from an analysis in January that found insurers in California had largely held onto their market share.

New York's Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield comprised 28 percent of the market in 2012, but that share has lowered to 18 percent on the exchange this year. And of the 16 insurers selling individual policies on the state exchange, seven have more than a 5 percent market share.

Among states with less competitive markets, just three insurers are selling plans on Connecticut's exchange. WellPoint dominates the market with a 60 percent share. EmblemHealth has 37 percent of the market and HealthyCT has just 3 percent. And Washington's Premera Blue Cross controls 62 percent of the exchange market, compared with its 40 percent market share in 2012.

But WellPoint spokeswoman Kristin Binn told Bloomberg that the report isn't representative of all markets and shouldn't lead to widespread conclusions because, for example, the data doesn't include members whose plans were renewed from prior years or new members who signed up without using exchanges.

To learn more:
- here's the Kaiser study
- read the Bloomberg article

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