Subsidy rulings mean more enrollment work for insurers

Given the opposing opinions coming out of two separate court rulings regarding Affordable Care Act subsidies, there's bound to be confusion among consumers interested in signing up for coverage during the next enrollment period. That means insurers will have to dedicate more time and effort to educating them and explaining that they won't be losing subsidies right now.

"People are going to be coming in with more questions about these court cases," Jason Stevenson, a spokesman for the Utah Health Policy Project, a nonprofit organization that employs exchange navigators, told the Wall Street Journal. "People are already asking about the long-term stability of the ACA."

Despite the confusion, most insurers, including Aetna and Molina Healthcare, are signaling that they will still participate in and sell plans on exchanges, even in states running the federal exchange.

But they're already working to address the increased amount of education needed. Michigan's Priority Health, for example, said it will probably add information about subsidies on its website. It also is considering emailing its insurance agents and providers so they know "everything is continuing as it is," Joan Budden, chief marketing officer for Priority Health, told the WSJ. The insurer is also expecting "a little spike" in calls from consumers about the issue, she added.

Paramount, an insurer based in Ohio, agrees that the subsidy rulings will lead to increased confusion. "You'll have a variety of confusion and misinformation, much of it politically geared" during the 2015 exchange enrollment period, said Paramount CEO Jack Randolph.

Although that means insurers will have to do more education on subsidies, Randolph didn't think it would be "terribly different than what we encountered in the last open-enrollment process."

In addition to the new subsidy ruling confusion, insurers could confront a more challenging exchange enrollment period later this year because the federal government will have less time and potentially less money to spend on advertising or consumer assistance groups. What's more, federal officials still don't know which outreach and enrollment methods worked best, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article