Los Angeles Times by Chad Terhune –
April 21, 2014:
With open enrollment for Obamacare wrapped up, insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross stayed ahead of the pack in California sign-ups and widened its lead over rival Blue Shield of California.
Anthem signed up 425,058 people through April 15, or 30.5% of Covered California’s exchange market under the Affordable Care Act, new data show.
Anthem is a unit of Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., the nation’s second-largest health insurer.
San Francisco insurer Blue Shield of California trails Anthem with a 27.3% share, or 381,457 enrollees.
Health Net Inc. leapfrogged HMO giant Kaiser Permanente during the initial enrollment period that lasted more than six months. The Woodland Hills insurer finished with 264,079 customers for a 18.9% share.
Kaiser, the state’s biggest HMO, is fourth with 241,098 exchange customers, a 17.3% share for the Oakland company.
Health Net’s HMO plans were among the lowest priced in Southern California, while Kaiser had some of the highest premiums. Anthem and Blue Shield plans were often priced in the middle, depending on the area.
Overall, the state’s four largest health insurers accounted for 94% of exchange enrollment. There were seven other health plans selling in the exchange, but many of them were smaller, regional players.
L.A. Care Health Plan, available only in Los Angeles County, picked up 38,124 enrollees, or nearly 3% of the statewide total.
Molina Healthcare Inc. of Long Beach, which primarily runs Medicaid managed-care plans across the country, took in 11,731 customers through Covered California. That was less than 1% market share.
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said all 11 health plans have indicated they intend to return next year. He also said three new plans have submitted letters of intent indicating they may compete on the exchange in 2015.
A spokeswoman for the exchange declined to identify the potential new bidders, saying “documents associated with our health plan bidding process … are confidential. The final date for submission of bid proposals for the 2015 coverage year is June 1.”
Overall, nearly 1.4 million people enrolled in private health plans through the state exchange. About 85% of them have paid their initial premium thus far so coverage takes effect, according to the exchange.
The immediate task ahead for health insurers is getting bills and identification cards out to thousands of new customers. Anthem, Blue Shield and other insurers were overwhelmed by a crush of sign-ups in late December among people wanting coverage that started Jan. 1.
None of these exchange figures includes people buying individual health insurance outside the state marketplace. Only people who want to take advantage of federal premium subsidies are required to enroll through the state exchange.
Covered California said 88% of enrollees were eligible for premium assistance.
So-called Silver plans remained the most popular on the exchange, with 62% of people picking those $2,000-deductible policies. Twenty-six percent of customers opted for bronze plans, which are cheaper but have $5,000 annual deductibles.
In addition to those enrolling in health plans, more than 1.5 million Californians have signed up or been deemed eligible for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid.