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The Journal Gazette

Friday, February 05, 2016 5:27 am

More Hoosiers shifted to HIP

Brian Francisco | Washington Editor

Nearly 23,000 fewer Hoosiers are enrolled in medical insurance offered through the federal Affordable Care Act than were last March.

Officials for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday the number declined because of last year’s expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan, a Medicaid insurance program for low-income people that is administered by the state government.

HIP 2.0 has grown from about 50,000 enrollees to about 370,000 since the expansion. In roughly the same time, the number of Hoosiers who buy insurance through the federal HealthCare.gov has shrunk from 219,185 to 196,242.

The nonprofit Neighborhood Health Clinics of Fort Wayne said it helped fewer people apply for HealthCare.gov coverage during the latest open enrollment period, which ended Sunday, than during the 2014-15 enrollment period.

HIP 2.0 won federal approval three months after last year’s federal exchange enrollment had begun, "so a lot of people were already in their marketplace account when HIP had passed. They didn’t update right away," said Cathy Pollick, outreach and enrollment coordinator for Neighborhood Health Clinics.

"They would have just stayed there until the next renewal, which is what we saw," Pollick said. 

At that point, some marketplace enrollees were shifted to HIP 2.0, she said. Income guidelines determine whether an applicant qualifies for HIP 2.0 or the federal insurance marketplace, which offers income-based tax credits.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released figures Thursday showing that 22,630 people in the Fort Wayne media market either enrolled or re-enrolled in the federal marketplace during the most recent sign-up period. The Fort Wayne media market consists of 259,170 households in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.

In the media markets close in size to Fort Wayne, marketplace enrollments were 33,718 in Augusta, Georgia; 19,316 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and 25,115 in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

During a conference call with reporters, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said 12.7 million Americans had enrolled or re-enrolled in the federal marketplace as of Monday, including 4 million new customers. A year ago, total enrollment was 11.7 million people.

"It’s clear that marketplace coverage is a product that people do want and need," she said. "More than 90 percent of Americans are insured, and that’s the first time that this has ever been true."

The Affordable Care Act requires most people to carry health insurance or face income tax penalties, which increased this year.

Burwell and other HHS officials said more young adults had signed up for federal marketplace insurance. Pollick said about 15 percent of the marketplace consumers assisted by Neighborhood Health Clinics were younger than 30.

Premiums paid by a younger, healthier risk pool help defray the costs of claims that insurers pay to older, less-healthy people.

There have been three open enrollment periods since 2013, and Burwell said consumers have grown "smarter" and "more engaged" when selecting insurance coverage. About 70 percent of returning customers shopped the online marketplace this time, she said, compared with about 50 percent last year.

Pollick said the same was true at Neighborhood Health Clinics.

"This open enrollment I’d say we finally started to see the consumers who know what they’re looking for in an insurance plan, which is great," she said in an email. "They have a better understanding of their medical needs, which providers they want to ensure are in network, their prescription costs."

bfrancisco@jg.net