It’s open enrollment time again on the health insurance marketplace. Arizona residents can browse options and sign up for coverage at HealthCare.gov.
Many people who bought a 2014 were automatically re-enrolled in the same plan for 2015. If that’s the case for you, know that you may end up paying more for it than you did last year — either because the insurer raised the price or because your subsidy changed. There’s still time for you to shop around for a new plan, or at a bare minimum, update income and other information so subsidies can be correctly calculated for 2015. You can make changes through Feb. 15.
2015 enrollment snapshot
Between Nov. 15 and Jan. 16, 169,178 Arizona residents selected a health plan. During all of 2014 open enrollment, 120,071 people from Arizona purchased health insurance through HealthCare.gov.
A report that looked at just the first four weeks of enrollment showed that 77 percent of those selecting a health plan qualified for financial assistance. For all states using the federal marketplace, 87 percent qualified for assistance.
2015 plans and premiums
Three more insurers are participating in the Arizona marketplace for 2015: UnitedHealthcare, Assurant Health, and Phoenix Health Plans. In total, 13 insurers are participating in the second open enrollment period, up from 10 last year. Nationally, the number of participating insurers is up about 25 percent.
A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis shows premiums down 10 percent in the Phoenix area, but flat or up in many other parts of the state. Visit HealthCare.gov and enter your ZIP code to see the specific insurers, plans and premiums available where you live.
While rates are increasing for some Arizona residents, the baseline is better than in many other areas. In 2014, Arizona’s premiums were among the lowest of states using the federal exchange in 2014.
What happened during 2014 open enrollment?
Arizona saw positive effects during the first year with the Obamacare marketplace in operation. The state’s uninsured rate dropped 3.2 points by nearly 4 percentage points, state hospitals have seen uncompensated care costs drop by nearly one-third, and the state added health care-related jobs.
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).
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.
Arizona and Medicaid expansion
Medicaid expansion was passed by the Arizona Legislature with some Republican support and was approved by Brewer. The Medicaid decision allowed 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 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 2013, and a judge dismissed the case in early February 2014.
A group of conservative Republican representatives appealed the decision, and the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that the case could proceed. The Arizona Supreme Court heard the case in November 2014 and later ruled that the case could proceed. Newly seated Gov. Doug Ducey is said to be reviewing the decision and consulting with legal experts on how to proceed.
Arizona health insurance exchange links