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State-based exchanges achieve high levels of re-enrollment

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report also notes many enrollees shopped for new plans

Six states successfully re-enrolled large numbers of residents during the second year of open enrollment on the health insurance exchanges, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report indicates.

The states involved in the study--California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington--all operate their own health insurance marketplaces. Financial difficulties and other challenges have led several states who operated their own exchanges to either switch or consider switching to the federal marketplace instead, especially now that the King v. Burwell decision has guaranteed subsidies for all states.

The states studied did indeed face challenges, including technology glitches with their websites, questions about how best to inform customers about their re-enrollment options and difficulty re-determining customers' eligibility for tax credits due to income changes, the report notes.

But in spite of these hurdles, the states studied all retained at least two-thirds of their 2014 enrollees. While retention rates were not completely comparable because of states' different definitions and timing for re-enrollment, California and Kentucky--both of which rely on automatic renewals--reported the highest retention rates at 90 percent.

The report also found "surprising levels" of enrollees who shopped within either the federal or state-based marketplaces during the 2015 open enrollment period in order to switch plans based on price or services offered. Plan switching tended to be lower in states that offered automatic plan renewals, however.

"No re-enrollment strategy is perfect, but despite using different methods, all of these states experienced high retention rates in their marketplaces," Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in an announcement of the findings emailed to FierceHealthPayer. "It suggests that the most salient factors are the competitiveness of the market and the high value that consumers place on being covered." 

To learn more:
- check out the study (.pdf)

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CMS: Insurers that make drastic changes to exchange plans face five-year ban
State-based exchanges tough to pull off