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Arizona health insurance exchange

AZ reaping benefits of Obamacare

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  • By
  • contributor
  • September 23, 2014

Arizona is seeing positive effects during the first year with the Obamacare marketplace in operation. The state’s uninsured rate dropped by nearly 4 percentage points, state hospitals have seen uncompensated care costs drop by nearly one-third, and the state is adding health care-related jobs.

When 2015 open enrollment begins in Nov. 15, consumers will have additional choices as United Healthcare is expected to join the marketplace and expand competition.

Arizona residents will again use the federal health insurance marketplace,, to shop for health insurance.

What happened during 2014 open enrollment?

Just more than 120,000 Arizona residents signed up for qualified health plans (QHPs) during open enrollment for 2014. An additional 101,282 people qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

An analysis shows that Arizona’s uninsured rate dropped from 20.14 percent before Obamacare open enrollment to 16.38 percent after. Arizona hospitals are feeling the positive effect of the drop in the uninured rate: uncompensated care costs dropped 31 percent during January through April 2014 compared to the same span in 2013.

Among Arizona residents selecting a QHP, 77 percent qualified for financial assistance, compared to 85 percent nationally. A report released in June by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed the average monthly premium, after tax credits, for Arizona consumers was $113. Among states using the federal marketplace, the average was $82. Twenty-six percent of Arizona enrollees pay $50 or less per month after subsidies.

Twelve percent of Arizona residents selected a bronze plan (20 percent nationally), 60 percent selected a silver plan (65 percent nationally), 14 percent selected a gold plan (9 percent nationally), 13 percent selected a platinum plan (5 percent nationally) and 1 percent selected a catastrophic plan (2 percent nationally). Twenty-one percent of Arizona enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34.

Where are premium costs headed?

In filings for 2015, Health Net of Arizona, Cigna, and Humana have all requested rate increases of at least 10 percent, triggering disclosure by state officials. Other insurers may have proposed smaller increases — or decreases — which the state is not obligated to disclose at this stage. The Arizona Department of Insurance says it will share all proposed rates after its review is complete. Federal officials will also review filings, with the finalized list of insurers and rates announced in the fall.

While rates will increase somewhat in 2015, Arizona is starting from a good place. In 2014, Arizona’s premiums were among the lowest of states using the federal exchange in 2014.

Arizona and Medicaid expansion

Medicaid expansion was passed by the Arizona Legislature with some Republican support and was approved by Brewer. The Medicaid decision allows people earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $15,000 for an individual — to gain health coverage. About 300,000 are eligible under the expanded criteria.

Some Republican legislators and conservatives challenged Medicaid expansion. They first launched a petition to put the Medicaid expansion on the November 2014 ballot. The referendum push failed, prompting a legal challenge. The suit claimed that because the tax plan to fund the state’s portion of expansion costs was passed with less than a two-thirds majority, it was unconstitutional. Oral arguments were made in mid-December, and a judge dismissed the case in early February. A group of conservative Republican representatives appealed the decision, and the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that the case could proceed. In May, Gov. Brewer and Tom Betlach, head of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, asked the Arizona Supreme Court to decide if the lawmakers have the legal standing to bring the case.

Arizona health insurance exchange links

Cover Arizona

Arizona Department of Insurance: Health Insurance Exchange

Office of Health Insurance Exchange

State Exchange Profile: Arizona
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Arizona’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.