HealthSource RI is out with its most recent enrollment data.
It looks like the state's online health insurance marketplace kept two-thirds (71%) of enrollees from last year and gained a quarter more (about 5,000 new enrollees). So with total enrollments for 2015 at 22,910, HealthSource RI didn't lose a bunch of customers but didn't gain a whole lot either.
It's not clear how much the uncertainty surrounding the agency's future might have affected enrollment. And as a new leader - Anya Rader Wallack - takes the helm of HealthSource this year, replacing Christine Ferguson, the uncertainty remains over whether the state will find the money to pay for HealthSource. It has funding to carry on this year, but after that?
Most Enrollees Qualify For Financial Assistance
What is clear comes from HealthSource RI's own data: the majority of enrollees in the individual and family health insurance market have qualified for some kind of financial assistance to pay for that coverage. Although everyone's situation is different, it's likely many of them simply couldn't afford the coverage their employer offered, sending them to the exchange instead. That's if they were offered coverage at all.
A woman I spoke with at a HealthSource RI enrollment fair earlier this month told me she worked at a Dunkin' Donuts in Warwick but couldn't afford their health insurance coverage option. She told me that option would have cost her $80 dollars a week - which I have not verified independently, but if true would leave someone making minimum wage with about $1200 a month or so to pay for rent, food, transportation, day care, etc. If she buys a plan on HealthSource RI and qualifies for assistance, she could end up paying far less for a plan.
Small Business Enrollments? So-So, But Better Than Most
HealthSource RI also offers health insurance plans for small businesses, on its "SHOP" exchange, and enrollment in those plans hasn't been as robust as HealthSource officials had hoped. 437 small businesses have enrolled so far, representing 3,157 individuals. That number includes the SHOP's first and second years, so far, because there's no deadline for small businesses to enroll; they can sign up whenever their regular open enrollment periods fall. I think it's safe to say many small business owners who were considering HealthSource RI as an option for their employees may have held off because of fears of uncertainty about the exchange. That said, Rhode Island has the only SHOP exchange up and running in the country, as far as I know, so by that account our enrollment numbers are through the roof.
I spoke to one small business CFO who told me she liked the idea of the exchange for her employees but just couldn't risk it until there was more clarity about the exchange's future.
Which Way Do The Numbers Point?
So, will the so-so enrollment numbers give those who would rather see us scrap the exchange and hand the reins over to the feds a little more steam? Perhaps. But enrollment numbers aren't the only measure of the exchange's impact on the state. Several state lawmakers have pointed out that turning things over to the federal government would still incur costs, and lose some of the advantages of a state-based exchange. It will be up to HealthSource RI supporters to spell out what those advantages are as a new administration takes control.