Making Sense of Affordable Care

ACA Enrollment Period Front-Loaded with Waning Interest in Second Half

New trend in consumer insurance shopping argues for
shorter enrollment period than proposed by government

Sunnyvale, CA— HealthPocket’s examination of a collection of internal and industry metrics associated with the Affordable Care Act found that consumer shopping interest was down more than 50% in the second half of the annual enrollment period as compared to the first half.

HealthPocket’s review of government enrollment data for 2015 found a similar consumer bias towards the first half of the enrollment period. The current front-loading of consumer interest in 2015 stands in contrast to last year when 73% of exchange enrollees selected health plans in the second half of the enrollment period.

Among the factors that influenced the front-loading of enrollment this year was the auto-enrollment of previous enrollees on Healthcare.gov. Additionally, government exchanges did not evidence the same technical problems as they had at the beginning of last year’s annual enrollment period.

Shortened enrollment period

The government has proposed that the ACA annual enrollment period for 2016 be shortened to 76 days and start on October 1st. Given that the Medicare enrollment period for Part D and Medicare Advantage plans is only 54 days and enrolls millions more people, it is assumed that the Department of Health & Human Services will eventually reduce the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act to 54 days. Based on HealthPocket’s analysis of consumer shopping behavior, such a reduction would not cause significant inconvenience for consumers.

The reduction of the enrollment period to 54 days could also be combined with a change in start date to avoid the current overlap of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare enrollment periods, which results in call center congestion at insurance companies.

Worry is like a rocking horse; it consumes time and energy, but gets you nowhere

A move of Affordable Care Act enrollments to tax season would assist consumers in making the most informed health plan decisions since tax season is when consumers review critical issues relating to health insurance (e.g. if any portion of last year’s subsidies must be repaid, if changes in income affect the level of health insurance subsidization, the amount of the uninsured penalty for those without an exemption regarding minimum essential coverage, etc.).

“The shopping demand curve for Obamacare observed by HealthPocket shows an exhaustion of buying interest over the long AEP except around keys dates,” said Bruce Telkamp, CEO at HealthPocket. “HealthPocket’s analysis supports a shortening of the annual enrollment period and potentially a shift in its placement to the tax season. These changes would not only benefit consumers but also reduce advertising expenditures by exchanges and insurance companies alike."

HealthPocket’s IndustryWatch publication on consumer activity during this year’s ACA enrollment period, “Contrary to Last Year, Consumer Interest Waned in Second Half of Obamacare Enrollment Period can be reviewed here.

HealthPocket.com is a free website that compares and ranks all health insurance plans, helping individuals, families, and small businesses to make their best health plan decisions. HealthPocket publishes health insurance market analyses and other consumer advocacy research. HealthPocket’s research is nonpartisan and uses only objective data from government, non-profit, and private sources that carry no conditions that might restrict the site from serving as an unbiased resource. HealthPocket, Inc. is independently managed and based in Sunnyvale, California. Learn more at www.HealthPocket.com.