3 obstacles insurers must overcome this exchange enrollment


As the next enrollment period for the health insurance exchanges opens in a few days, insurers are up against several obstacles as they focus on enrolling consumers, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

It's been a year since insurers dealt with all the snafus and technical glitches involved with Healthcare.gov enrollment. Although those issues have predominately been resolved, a new batch of challenges has cropped up. The Healthwatch article identified five obstacles facing insurers; three of them include:

1. Shorter enrollment period
Last year's enrollment period was six months long, but this one is just three months. That means insurers and government officials have half the time to reach out to uninsured consumers and address any unforeseen problems, which Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell says are inevitable. "Something [bad] will happen," she said Monday when discussing open enrollment, according to a separate Healthwatch article. "What we need to do is be transparent, be fast and get it fixed."

2. Hard-to-reach uninsured population
The characteristics of the uninsured population has changed since last year's exchange enrollment. The people who remain have been "without insurance for a long time" and likely "have limited education or language barriers," Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman has said. That means it will be harder for insurers to convince the uninsured consumers that health coverage is essential this time around. For example, many Latinos remain uninsured despite being eligible for subsidies because they fear applying for coverage will expose their family members who are illegal immigrants.

3. Re-enrollment confusion
Since some consumers are already enrolled in exchange plans, this enrollment period marks the first time that insurers must handle returning as well as new consumers. Back-end issues with Healthcare.gov are preventing HHS from telling insurers that consumers have left for another company. And if a lot of people switch plans, insurers will have to reconcile all their member records to cross check names on each other's lists. Adding to the challenge of automatic re-enrollments is that consumers will be receiving different directions on how to renew based on where they live, likely creating widespread confusion that insurers must address.

To learn more:
- read The Hill's Healthwatch article on enrollment challenges and the article on Burwell's comments

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