Surprising gender, age mix found in marketplace enrollment

New health insurance marketplace data reveal a 10-point gender gap, as well as a widening age gap among enrollees.

As of Feb.1, marketplace enrollment consisted of 55 percent women and 45 percent men, according to Bloomberg BNA. While young adult enrollment in exchange plans rose by 27 percent in January, cumulative enrollment of 18 - 34 year olds appears lower than it was in the individual market before 2014.

Further, healthcare costs for females between the ages of 18 and 64 can be as much as 20 percent higher than average costs for men, the article noted. Though women may generate higher claims expenses in child bearing years, "the child bearing population is still a minority of exchange enrollees," Avalere Health Vice President Caroline Pearson told Bloomberg BNA. "It will limit the impact of a female-heavy mix on pricing of premiums."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data showed one quarter of enrollees in the first four months of marketplace operation were young adults. That's far beneath the 40 percent enrollment target projected by the Congressional Budget Office, the article noted, and significant because enrollment of young people is essential for reform success.

Yet statements by WellPoint and Aetna indicate enrollees' ages match actuarial assumptions, the article said. Earlier this month, Humana said its exchange enrollees skewed younger.

The implications of fewer-than-expected children under age 18 in the customer base remain unclear. While healthcare costs for infants top those for older children, kids have, on average, low overall healthcare expenses, Bloomberg BNA noted. Though many children will qualify for Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Plan coverage, experts expected to see more of them covered as dependents on parents' individual market plans.

Against the backdrop of these demographic trends, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation to repeal the ACA's risk corridors provision, which compensates payers for higher-than-expected losses, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For more:
- here's the Bloomberg BNA article

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