Alabama health insurance exchange
More than 20,000 in Alabama apply for coverage in October
By Carla Anderson
November 22, 2013
Applications covering nearly 21,000 Alabama residents were completed in the first month of open enrollment through the health insurance marketplace, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). About 15,000 of the applicants are eligible to purchase insurance through the marketplace. So far, 624 people have selected a health plan. More than 7,000 of the people completing applications have qualified for subsidies on the marketplace, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Applications for nearly 4,000 people are still pending.
The federal government is operating the health insurance marketplace in Alabama, based on Gov. Robert Bentley’s November 2012 decision against a state-run marketplace. Bentley cited annual operating costs of up to $50 million as his reason for opting for a federally operated exchange. Bentley also ruled out an expansion of Medicaid in the state.
The decision against a state-run exchange came somewhat as a surprise. While the Republican governor consistently opposed many provisions of the Affordable Care Act, he repeatedly expressed support for a state health insurance exchange. He supported exchanges during his campaign for governor, and as governor, he used an executive order to establish the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission. In November 2011, that commission unanimously recommended Alabama implement a state-run exchange. However, bills to establish a state-run exchange failed to pass in both the 2011 and 2012 sessions.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, which dominates the health insurance market in the state, and Humana are selling individual health insurance through the federal marketplace in Alabama. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and United Healthcare are selling small-business policies. According to HHS, Alabama consumers have the fewest choices among the 36 states with partnership or federally facilitated marketplace. State residents will have an average of seven health plans from which to choose; the national average is 53.
According to a report released by HHS, the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Alabama is $247 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
More than 640,000 people in Alabama (16 percent of the population) are uninsured and eligible to use the marketplace.
The current open enrollment runs from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Policies must be purchased by Dec. 15 for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.
Alabama health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Alabama
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Alabama’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.