State HIX beat out federal marketplace for enrollment success

State health insurance exchanges (HIX) have it over on the federal government when it comes to enrollment, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

State HIX enrolled more people in health insurance than those that use the federal marketplace, according to an analysis by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Davis Institute, the Inquirer reports.

Penn's Health Insurance Exchange researchers told the newspaper that they were surprised to find that even after began working well in December, state-based marketplaces kept outperforming the federal site.

Last spring, Tom Baker, a Penn law professor and the project's principal investigator, had students visit state sites and the federal exchange to find out why. The students preferred the new and improved website over the state sites. Yet the states still enrolled more people. What did those sites have that the federal site didn't? More money, the Inquirer reports.

"We think that it's not about the operation of the website," says Baker, working under a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant. "The states running their own exchanges were cooperating [with the government] in a lot of subtle ways."

It turns out that states that run their own websites had an advantage: $3 billion in block grants just for state sites. The cash infusion allowed the 16 states and the District of Columbia with their own sites to spend more money to enroll people. The health law included $67 million in Exchange Establishment block grants. These funds were earmarked for training and paying the salaries of navigators in the 29 states that used the federal site and two other states that partnered with A total of 105 groups received one-year grants. Each state received at least $600,000, the Penn team found.

But HIX leaders say their road to success wasn't easy, FierceHealthPayer reported previously. They attribute their success to experience, customer service, marketing and small business buy-in.

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