Maine health insurance exchange
Maine sees low enrollment numbers in October
By Carla Anderson
November 26, 2013
About 3,550 applications covering about 6,500 Maine residents were submitted in the first month of open enrollment through the health insurance marketplace, according to the October enrollment report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). About 5,000 of the applicants are eligible to purchase insurance through the marketplace, but fewer than 400 have selected a health plan so far. An additional 623 qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). About 6,100 So far, just 250 have selected a health plan.
Maine’s health insurance marketplace is operated by the federal government. Gov. Paul LePage announced the state’s decision against a state-run model in November 2012. In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, LePage said the Affordable Care Act has “severe legal problems” and state-run exchanges will be “actually controlled” by the federal government.
LePage’s administration did explore creating a state-run exchange. The governor appointed an advisory committee, and in September 2011 that committee recommended that Maine implement a state-run exchange. The committee also issued recommendations as to how the exchange should be structured and governed. However, Maine ultimately joined the Supreme Court case that attempted to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and the state legislature failed to pass exchange legislation in both 2011 and 2012.
Two insurers are offering policies through the marketplace in Maine: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Maine Community Health Options (MCHO). Nationally, the average is eight insurers per state.
According to a report released by HHS, the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Maine is $328 a month. That’s much higher than the national average of $249 a month for a bronze policy. Health insurance has traditionally been expensive in Maine due to the state’s rural nature, high average age, and few insurers. While the marketplace may ultimately trigger more competition, the other underlying cost drivers will remain.
According to HHS, about 145,000 Maine residents (13 percent of the state population) are uninsured and eligible to use the marketplace. Open enrollment for coverage in 2014 runs from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Policies must be purchased by Dec. 23 for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.
Maine health insurance exchange links
State Exchange Profile: Maine
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Maine’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.