By Carla Anderson
February 13, 2014
About 43,500 Arizonans selected a health plan through HealthCare.gov between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31 according to the Feb. 12 enrollment report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An additional 56,333 people qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Thirty-five percent of those selecting a health plan were age 34 or younger. Arizonans showed a greater preference for higher premium/lower deductible plans than the national average. In Arizona, 19 percent selected gold plans and 18 percent selected platinum plans; nationally, the figures were 12 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Premiums in Arizona are lower than in many other parts of the country, which is likely a factor in the tilt toward higher end policies.
Enrollment for private insurance in 2014 continues through March 31. Policies purchased by the 15th of the month will be effective the first day of the following month. Individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater. Enrollment for Medicaid or CHIP continues throughout the year.
Arizona is among the 26 states that opted to use the federal health insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov. While Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signaled a preference for a state-run health insurance marketplace, she ultimately chose the federally operated exchange for her state. In her letter informing the federal government of her decision, Brewer said the state had made significant process toward establishing its own exchange. However, she continued, a lack of information from federal officials made it impossible for the state to commit to implementing its own exchange.
Eight insurers are selling policies through the federal marketplace in Arizona: Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Cigna, Health Choice, Humana, Health Net of Arizona, and Meritus Health Partners. Together, they are offering more than 100 plan options.
Marketplace premiums for Arizona residents are lower than the national average. According to an HHS report, the average cost for a bronze plan — the tier with the lowest premiums — in Arizona is $214 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
According to HHS, about 948,000 Arizona residents are uninsured and eligible to use the marketplace. About 300,000 of those individuals will qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, which was passed by the Legislature with some Republican support and approved by Brewer.
The Medicaid decision allows people earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,282 for an individual — to gain health coverage. Some Republican legislators and conservatives challenged the 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. However, the Goldwater Institute (the conservative group that filed the lawsuit) announced it will appeal.
State Exchange Profile: Arizona
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Arizona’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Let your Arizona governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Arizona Governor Jan Brewer