Experts: Don't believe all the exchange enrollment predictions


Tuesday's opening of the health insurance exchanges saw a lot of activity. Amid the technical glitches and strong consumer interest there also was plenty of dialogue among politicians, industry experts, insurers and regulators.

The problem, however, is much of the conclusions made during the first day of operation are premature. "There are going to be a lot of people making predictions based on incomplete information," Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, told Kaiser Health News.

Here are some of the facts we know for sure. Prices vary widely from state to state as well as within some states. For example, a 35 year-old male nonsmoker from Massachusetts could choose a plan with monthly premiums from $192 to $375. The same consumer could choose a plan with premiums ranging from $241 to $299, Kev Coleman, head of health data and research for HealthPocket, wrote in an emailed statement to FierceHealthPayer.

Additionally, phone support faired better than online functionality on the federal exchanges. The federal exchange website experienced technical glitches throughout the first day, but its toll-free customer support number was operational. An afternoon call to the number resulted in access to a live representative after five minutes on hold, Coleman said.

It also appears clear that technology innovation in healthcare is more important than ever with the rollout of the exchanges, says Faisal Hoque, founder of several companies including BTM Corp. and the BTM Institute, FierceHealthIT previously reported. The business of healthcare can be "modified for better results," Hoque said. "When it comes to innovating business models for healthcare delivery, it appears we have failed to keep pace with clinical advances, and surprisingly with most other industries."

To determine whether the online marketplaces are actually successful, consider three key issues--the type of consumers who enroll (young and healthy versus old and sick); the impact of complete pricing information (premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket and other costs) on consumers' decisions; and premiums for 2016, which will be the first rates to take into account more than a few months of claims, KHN noted.

"As with all things, the first few weeks are not a good indication of anything," Joseph Antos, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, told KHN. "It doesn't tell you anything about the prospects for health reform being a success or a failure."

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article

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