State marketplace ‘in good shape’ a week after launch
A new state insurance marketplace Virginia launched Nov. 1 saw large numbers of applicants in the first week of the open enrollment period.
For Virginians seeking health insurance that meets the requirements of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — the new state health benefit exchange replaces the federal government’s healthcare.gov.
That exchange is where Virginians who are unemployed or self-employed or have jobs that don’t provide affordable insurance can research and sign up for health coverage.
Katha Treanor, a spokesperson for the State Corporation Commission, said over 10,000 applications to shop for health insurance through the marketplace were submitted from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8. Additionally, Treanor said over 340,000 Virginians who previously accessed coverage through healthcare.gov have successfully been transferred to and reenrolled in the state marketplace.
SCC Virginia Insurance Marketplace Director Keven Patchett said application rates for the state marketplace are higher than those seen for the federal marketplace in the past.
Patchett said the intent behind the switch is to provide more residents affordable coverage through resources and tools tailored to Virginians. Those include a quick and user-friendly website, comprehensive customer assistance with shorter wait times and close coordination with the state Medicaid program and insurance carriers to help better determine the needs of Virginians.
“Healthcare.gov has to meet the needs of well over 30 states and so it really has to be a one-size-fits-all,” Patchett said, “whereas here in Virginia I’d say we have the opportunity to tailor a solution that meets our needs and can improve over time.”
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Officials say this year’s sharp increase in enrollees is largely due to the over 200,000 Virginians who have lost Medicaid coverage so far as the state reevaluates who is still eligible for the program after the end of pandemic-era continuous coverage requirements. As a result, many former Medicaid enrollees are now turning to the state exchange for insurance.
While premiums for individual Virginians have remained relatively stable this year, Patchett said those prices could have been higher had the commonwealth remained in the federal exchange. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, insurers offering plans through the federal marketplace are proposing a 6% average premium hike for next year.
In 2024, the average weighted monthly premium for individuals in Virginia is projected to be $483. That figure was initially projected to be $579; however, last-minute funding from the General Assembly this summer for the state’s reinsurance program reduced those rates by approximately 2.4%.
“Keeping those premiums the same really was a victory compared to what we’re seeing across the country, and that’s not just a result of the marketplace, but also other initiatives that have been going on in Virginia,” Patchett said.
Residents in the state’s small group marketplace can expect to pay an average premium of $652 per month next year, a 7.5% increase from 2023.
Patchett encourages Virginians who aren’t sure what their needs are or have questions to visit marketplace.virginia.gov. The website includes opportunities to shop for health plans anonymously before applying, compare pricing and check what plans cover certain doctors or prescription drugs. The open enrollment period for the 2024 plan year ends on Jan. 15, 2024.
Virginia residents can still receive federal premium tax credits and cost sharing savings as well.
“The marketplace is in good shape, and it’s only going to get better,” Patchett said.
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