Texas health insurance exchange
Robust competition in Texas exchange keeps premiums below national average
By Louise Norris
November 29, 2013
By November 2, applications had been completed with the Texas exchange to cover more than 108,000 residents; 2,991 of them had already selected their plans, with many more expected to do so over the next few weeks. Enrollment is likely to get a boost following the CMS announcement on November 22 that Texas applicants can enroll in QHPs directly through insurers – bypassing the exchange website entirely – with premium and cost-sharing subsidies available for eligible enrollees (the federal data hub is used to verify identity and determine subsidy eligibility for enrollments that go directly through insurance carriers).
Amid concerns over the problems that have beset HealthCare.gov in the first several weeks of open enrollment, Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber announced on November 22 that the state-run high risk pool would remain in existence until March 31, 2014. It had originally be scheduled to close at the end of December, but it was unclear whether all 23,000 members of the pool would be able to secure coverage through the exchange in time to have January 1 effective dates.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry formally notified the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) in July 2012 that Texas would not implement a state-run health insurance exchange. In his notification letter, Perry —a long-standing opponent of the Affordable Care Act — called the ACA provisions “brazen intrusions into the sovereignty of our state.” Texas State Representative Eric Johnson, a Democrat from Dallas, did introduce bills in early 2013 that would have created a state-run exchange and expanded Medicaid, but neither was successful. HHS is running the exchange in Texas, and the state is not expanding Medicaid.
Premiums in the Texas exchange are less than the national average. Averaged for all age groups, the lowest cost bronze plan in the Texas exchange is $211/month, compared with a national average of $249/month. That’s good news for Texas residents, but the technological problems that have plagued HealthCare.gov throughout October have hampered enrollment. Twelve carriers are offering a total of 95 different health plans in the Texas exchange, so residents have many options from which to choose and competition among carriers is helping to keep the rates below the national average. Not only are there a wide range of plans available in Texas, but there are also several big-name health insurance carriers participating in the Texas exchange, including Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and Humana.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25% of people in Texas are uninsured — the highest rate in the nation. A report prepared by the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University estimated that 3 million people could gain coverage by 2014 if the state implemented the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. But with the state’s current refusal to expand Medicaid, approximately one million of those people will fall into a “coverage gap” (and likely remain uninsured) because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to qualify for subsidies in the exchange.
According to a Kaiser Health News article, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas is playing a major role in educating state consumers about the federal health insurance marketplace. The Blues plan is using many strategies to reach consumers: creating a website, launching a texting campaign, and engaging churches, community clinics, nonprofits, and other community organizations.
Texas health insurance exchange links
Federal Health Care Reform Resource Page
From the Texas Department of Insurance
State Exchange Profile: Texas
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Texas’ progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.