Covered California released their enrollment data for the first two weeks of their extended open enrollment period. The Gold Rush is on:
From Nov. 1 through Nov. 14, more than 48,000 new consumers signed up for coverage through Covered California, which is slightly ahead of last year’s pace when more than 39,000 consumers selected a plan during the first two weeks of November 2016….
In addition to the enrollment data, Covered California announced that its data shows that consumers are using their increased tax credit money to purchase more-comprehensive coverage with richer benefits. The percentage of new subsidy-eligible consumers selecting a Gold-tier plan has increased from 4 percent during the first two weeks of 2016 to 12 percent during the same time this year. Silver continues to be the most-selected tier, which is good news because that is the level at which consumers receive the best value due to cost-sharing reduction benefits.
The shift out of Silver looks to be two thirds towards Gold. Maybe a quarter of the people who bought Silver last year are buying far less expensive after subsidy Bronze plans and a few more folks are buying Platinum plans. The work that Andrew Sprung, Louise Norris, Charles Gaba and I had done this Fall led us to believe that a lot more people would be choosing Gold plans because of CSR costs were being Silver Loaded. One of our worries was that people who were eligible for CSR Silver plans would choose the low to no premium Bronze plans instead.
That bargain remains in place. But silver plans can be quite expensive for low income enrollees. The premium for a benchmark silver plan ranges from 2% of income for those in the 100-138% FPL income bracket to 6.3% for enrollees at 200% FPL. The benchmark premium at 200% FPL comes to $127 per month in 2018.
Will the outsized bronze plan discounts available in many places this year tempt a lot CSR-eligible buyers into bronze plans?**
Right now the California data suggests that this is not the predominant case for new enrollees. The Bronze uptake percentage may have increased by no more than 4% while Gold’s uptake percentage was 8%. This is early data but promising data that shows this worry is not the dominant pathway.
Finally, California is running their own exchange. Covered California is running their own massive marketing campaign and they are running their own open enrollment period. They are outpacing their 2017 enrollment on an apples to apples basis. We can not extrapolate California’s experience nationally as there are too many differences but again, this is promising.