Conservatives opposed to the Affordable Care Act have over-emphasized the initial start-up problems with the exchanges, making false projections that Obamacare will fail. That appears highly unlikely. We are seeing many people obtain health coverage who have not been able to obtain coverage in the past, and the number is expected to grow as we get closer to the sign-up deadlines. Insurance companies can no longer drop people due to developing medical problems. Insurance plans now cover preventative studies which they did not cover before, and plans which took premiums without providing real medical coverage are being eliminated. All this can be counted as successes for Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act is also likely to result in larger profits for insurance companies due to the increase in business. So far we have limited data on plans sold, but today information released by WellPoint demonstrates that insurance companies are likely to see the predicted increase in profits:
The biggest player in the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance marketplaces delivered encouraging news to Obamacare supporters Wednesday.
After weeks of uncertainty about how many people have been applying for coverage that started Jan. 1, their age spread and whether or not they’re paying premiums, WellPoint disclosed higher-than-expected early membership growth and said it expects to make money on the new enrollees. It’s the most substantial information so far on how a key part of the health law is working out.
“We do feel good about what we’ve seen thus far on the exchanges,” WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish told stock analysts on a conference call to report 2013 financial results. “While it is early, we are encouraged by the level of applications we’ve received” as well as by the health-risk profiles of new members, he said.
WellPoint bosses also disclosed:
- As of last week about 500,000 people had applied for individual policies, mostly through its Anthem Blue Cross plans. The company expects another surge in late March, when enrollment closes for most people.
- Most are new members, not customers rolling over previous WellPoint insurance. What WellPoint doesn’t know is if they were previously uninsured or had coverage somewhere else.
- More than four-fifths applied through the subsidized, often-troubled online portals run by states or the federal government. The others enrolled directly with the company.
- Thanks to computer troubles, WellPoint is still processing applications this week for coverage effective Jan. 1.
- Most applicants had paid the first month’s premium, “but we’re not at what I’ll call a vast majority yet,” said chief financial officer Wayne DeVeydt.
- New members are older on average than the general population but not more so than expected. WellPoint priced its plans anticipating an older and presumably sicker mix, executives said.
In related news:
Mitch McConnell might be vulnerable in Kentucky over his opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
Ezekiel J. Emanuel explained how the Republican proposal for health care provides less benefits, increase the chances of people being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, will lead to higher taxes for those receiving insurance through employers, and will lead to higher costs for buying their own coverage. On the other hand, from the Republican perspective, it isn’t Obamacare (although it copies many features from it).