75,000 Mich. residents choose health insurance

Nearly 69,000 Michigan residents chose a private health insurance plan from a government website during December, a 10-fold increase over the first two months of enrollment under the federal health care law.
AP Wire
Jan 13, 2014

Numbers released Monday by President Barack Obama's administration don't indicate how many of the roughly 75,000 people who enrolled from October through Dec. 28 have paid their first monthly premium to ensure coverage effective Jan. 1. Eighty-four percent of those picking a plan qualified for tax credits to offset a portion of their premium, a higher proportion than 79 percent nationwide.

The federal website, which was plagued by problems during its rollout but has since improved, allows consumers to compare and buy insurance. It's a key element of the health law along with an expansion of Medicaid to more low-income adults, which begins April 1 in Michigan.

The number who have enrolled, 75,511, is in line with what the Obama administration projected, said Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Health Care Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan.

"Obviously the website got significantly better. The health plans did a lot to reach out to people in December," she said. "People really did want coverage Jan. 1, and a lot of people waited until the last minute."

Nearly 212,000 Michigan residents registered on the website, called a health care exchange, over three months — with many still waiting to buy a plan. Of those, 185,000 people were deemed eligible for plans offered through the exchange, including 101,000 eligible for subsidies.

Separately, 22,000 were ruled eligible for health care through Medicaid or MIChild, government insurance programs.

The administration was unable to say how of many of those enrolling for coverage previously were uninsured. Some might have been among the 225,000 Michigan residents whose previous policies were at risk of being canceled because they didn't meet the law's standards.

Udow-Phillips said more people, 7 in 10, picked a mid-range "silver" plan than she expected. Slightly more than 1 in 10 went with a bronze plan, which generally have the lowest premiums but include higher deductibles and co-pays.

"More people are going to have coverage pretty comparable to what an employer offers," she said. "They're willing to pay higher premiums to reduce that point-of-service cost."

Young adults represented 25 percent of enrollment in Michigan, similar to the national rate. Open enrollment ends March 31, and Udow-Phillips said she expects many young people to wait until the last minute.

"In the end it may skew older, but we don't know that yet," she said.

In releasing the data, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said outreach efforts have ramped up and the Obama administration is "doing all we can to find, inform and enroll those who can benefit from the marketplace."

Those working to sign people up in Michigan said the figures track what they're hearing on the ground.

"The rapid growth in the number of enrollments is a very positive sign, but there is still more work to be done," said Erin Knott, state director of Get Covered America, who added that the nonprofit has hired five more staffers in Michigan because many consumers don't know they can qualify for a government-subsidized plan.

Michigan is among 36 states using the federal government's site.

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Comments

Former Grandhavenite

I think part of the challenge with getting the poor to sign up for the ACA is that the premium subsidies are only refunded as a tax credit when you do your taxes at the end of the year. It would have made more sense to just subtract the subsidy amount from the premium that the customer pays upfront.

If a plan costs $300/month and you qualify for a $200/month subsidy, you still have to come up with the $300 every month. Knowing that you'll get $2400 back at the end of the year doesn't do you any good in the meantime. They need to be more realistic about what it means to be poor and stretch a paycheck to the breaking point, since that's the reality for the people the program is most designed to help.

LessThanAmused

Yeah, but they can't make interest off your money if you don't let them hold it for awhile. They'll give it back after they've got their cut.

Vladtheimp

No problem with the poor signing up for Obamacare - they either get pushed into Medicare or they sign up for a subsidy - 79% of the people who "selected a plan" got a taxpayer subsidy to cover the cost of their insurance (paid for by taxpayers).

Mike Ver Duin

>If a plan costs $300/month and you qualify for a $200/month subsidy, you still have to come up with the $300 every month

This is incorrect. I've been through the process, and while I have my issues with the system, when you qualify for a subsidy, you can choose to apply that amount to your monthly payment or get it back on your taxes when you file the next year. I selected the option to have a subsidy applied to my monthly premium.

Former Grandhavenite

That's interesting. They need to do a better job of advertising that fact because everyone I've talked with is under the impression that you have to pay the full cost of your premium every month, and only get the subsidy later. I would imagine they'd get quite a boost in their sign-up numbers if people knew this.

Barry Soetoro

You're welcome.

Tri-cities realist

"The administration was unable to say how of many of those enrolling for coverage previously were uninsured." Wasn't the main reason for passing the ACA to reduce the number of uninsured? And now apparently the administration either doesn't find it necessary to provide that piece of information, doesn't report it because they don't like the result, or are so incompetent that they forgot to track that info. Take your pick.

Mystic Michael

Regardless of whether reducing the number of uninsured was the "main reason" for the ACA, it is by no means the only reason. The ACA sets multiple new standards for quality & quantity of coverage that would never have come into being otherwise. Certainly the insurance companies themselves could not be counted upon to do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing - else they would have done so long before the ACA ever came into existence.

Even if most of the new enrollees previously had coverage, odds are very good that in the great majority of cases, the new coverage is substantially better than the previous coverage. Isn't that alone reason enough to suspend your irrational condemnation of the ACA, long enough to evaluate it based on its actual merits - instead of on your preconceived notions of it?

Tri-cities realist

I would love to evaluate the ACA on its actual merits, which was the point of my comment. For whatever reason, the administration can't or won't tell us a basic piece of information: how many enrollees were previously uninsured.

And I will suspend my rational, logical doubt about the ACA when you can provide data to back up your supposition about the "odds" of the coverage, provided that the data is accurate, shows that coverage is better, and at a lower cost (just what we were promised by the president). Good luck.

Also, please educate me on the "multiple new standards for quality", I am familiar with the new requirements on quantity, but not quality. Thanks in advance.

owell

"... is substantially better than the previous coverage."

Isn't that alone reason enough to suspend your irrational acceptance of the ACA, long enough to evaluate it based on its actual merits - instead of on your preconceived notions of it? Funnel down.

Wolverine49457

The word in the shop is the Affordable Health Care isn't so affordable. When politicians run things it is likely to be full of flaws, greed, graft and endless red tape. The thing that still puzzles me is Obama care is ran by the well-known medical experts known as the IRS and this just rolled past with few raised eyebrows...so when do the police start running our Schools and the military begin monitoring illegal vegetable growing, the IRS running your health care system seemed just as farfetched not long ago.

Mike Ver Duin

>The word in the shop is the Affordable Health Care isn't so affordable.

This is going to cut both ways. All in all, the package I signed up for is costing someone more money. But I as a individual, am paying less money.

Before the ACA, I had coverage for two adults and 3 children, it was ~$400 a month with a $5000 family deductible. it was an HSA plan.

After the ACA, I have coverage for $400+ a month, with a $10k deductible(and co insurance) and it only covers myself and my wife. BUT with the subsidy, we pay (I hope you are sitting down) $34 a month for the premium and the government covers 90% of our deductible so we are now at $1000 a year max out of pocket.

So, the insurance company is getting more money for less people covered. And in my opinion, similar 'coverage'. The tax payer is paying the lion's share of my insurance.

I have other issues with my coverage, like discovering after the fact that my doctor is not actually in my network although he was according to BCN at the time I signed up. But that is an implementation problem, and I'm working on filing a complaint with the state insurance board.

I'm happy they have per-existing coverage as I have run into an issue with that before when switching plans. I'm happy that there are subsidies for people, but I'm surprised how much I quality for.

In the end, to me at least, the problem hasn't been dealt with, and that is the actual cost of care in America. The ACA is affordable to me, but is it (will it) be affordable to America? I don't have an answer for that or a better solution.

Mystic Michael

Wow! Those are quite the numbers! Thanks for sharing.

In my observation, a lot of people don't understand public policy. They don't understand what it is; they don't understand how it works.

If their own personal situation becomes less advantageous as the result of a policy change, they automatically assume that the entire policy is a failure, and that it doesn't work for anybody. They're essentially taking a micro view of a macro process - like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars, and seeing a lot less than is actually there as a result.

From what I've gathered, the ACA has already begun to slow the increase in healthcare costs, relative to what they were immediately pre-ACA. Since healthcare has evolved into a complete, nationwide system, each of us is affected to some degree, directly or indirectly, positively and/or negatively. When a system of the scope, scale and importance of healthcare begins to realize new efficiencies and new cost controls as the result of a major policy change, everyone ultimately benefits, in one way or another.

Tri-cities realist

MVD, thank you for sharing your experience. I do have to wonder, are your children now NOT insured, or are they covered under another policy / program?

And while this is not directed at you specifically, your numbers show that only through a subsidy were the costs lowered. Your ACA plan is more expensive while covering less people, than your previous coverage. I wonder how that subsidy (and many others receiving them) will be paid for without increasing the deficit?

Mike Ver Duin

You are welcome. My children are now on Chip, which is similar to Medicade but at the state level. It is free to us, but again, that doesn't mean it is free, just that someone else (read: the taxpayers) are paying for it.

It boggles my mind that we qualify for this kind of aid.

Tri-cities realist

Again thank you for your transparency. I think it is part of the plan to make as many Americans as possible, receiving subsidies from the govt. Once a program like this in place there is virtually zero chance of it being discontinued. Then when the majority of Americans rely on the govt, they can require what they want of us.

From your comments, I assume you would consider your family income as "middle class", and that you were able to afford your previous insurance, while sticking to a budget of course. I'm also surprised at the size of the subsidy that you received if this is the case.

Robtownredneck

The ACA does much more than just benifit the poor and uninsured. I personaly can make over 6 figures in a good year and I benifit. I now have a choice. I now can get decent coverage availible to most other americans. I get a lower deductable, precription help, preventitive care I never got under my old High detuctable HSA plan. I am not in any way asking anyone to feel sorry for me. I am just saying this law benifits far more people than just the working poor. Change is always difficult. This law is moving us in the right direction. Now , to say the subsidy is funded by tax payers. What about teacher pensions and unlimited health care for life. What about goverment employees and health care for life. What about retired military and health care. Is that not taxpayer funded? Maybe its time the taxpayers got a break. Check your local budgets. While this law is not perfect by any means, its a huge step in the right direction. If you can argue against then why not private fire protection, police protection, private roads and bridges. These are all things we all need and expect from our govt. Soon health care will be one of them as it should be.

Tri-cities realist

Given the choice, I would rather privatize more services than turn more private enterprise over to the government. Costs would decrease and service would improve. But I'm not suggesting we do that with everything.

skyking007

If we would all work together, we could make this cheaper and better for everyone. I agree it makes sense to just subtract the subsidy amount from the premium. The very poor don't make enough to get the rebate on their taxes.

watchingyou

You don't even have to be very poor. If I would have to get my insurance through them, my budget would break. I would pay over double what I am now and no subsidy. I can't quite figure it out. How do they think it's affordable. My wife does have quite a few medical bills and none of the policies offered would even come close to what I have. If I lose it, we would be screwed.

retired DOC

Teachers, government workers and military people had to work to earn the "taxpayer funded" health plans. So what did you do to EARN the taxpayer funded health care?

happycamper

yep, i read a part where even tho we have coverage under obama plan, many doctors and hospitals are backing away from the whole thing, we have insurance but no one to except us as patience, much like it used to be with medicaid and medicare, sometimes it was hard to find someone in your area

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