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Insurers say most Obamacare enrollees paying premiums

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Three large health insurers including Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. and Aetna Inc. say that a high percentage of their new Obamacare customers are paying their first premiums, partly undermining a Republican criticism of enrollment in the program.

As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing on Wednesday. For Aetna, the payment is in the “low to mid-80 percent range,” the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent.

Making the first monthly payment is the last step to confirm enrollment in plans sold under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Republicans have made the question of how many paid a line of attack on the law.

“What you have here is very solid first-year enrollment, no matter how you slice it,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a Washington consulting firm. “This thing is, at this point, well entrenched.”

While the Obama administration said that 8 million people signed up for private plans using the law’s insurance exchanges, federal officials have said they don’t track first premium payments.

Due dates for the first premium vary by company and aren’t always strictly enforced. WellPoint, for example, asks for payment by the 10th of the month for coverage that begins on the first. While Aetna asks for payment by the day before coverage begins, “we are being flexible if enrollees have extenuating circumstances,” a spokeswoman for the company, Cynthia Michener, said in an e-mail last week.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee invited insurers to testify on enrollment after publishing a report last week claiming only two-thirds of people who signed up had paid their first premium.

“That was just foolishness on the part of the committee to even publish that number because it was completely out of context,” Bob Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant in Alexandria, Va., said in a phone interview.

The Republicans reported a lower percentage of paid premiums in part because they surveyed insurers only on payments received by April 15. At least 3 million people signed up for coverage that didn’t begin until May 1 or later; their premiums weren’t due until at least April 30.

The Republicans say they plan to update their report about May 20, when due dates will have passed for most Obamacare plans.

“After months of excuses, we took the administration’s advice and asked the insurance providers themselves for basic enrollment figures,” Fred Upton, the chairman of the committee, said in an e-mail from a spokeswoman Tuesday. “Tomorrow’s hearing will allow us to further explore the status of implementation and provide greater transparency and certainty moving forward.”

Spokeswomen for the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t immediately offer comment.

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  • Wait for the Facts
    Gentlemen, This information is anecdotal at best and more statistics need to be developed for Pro or Con on this issue. First, what plans do these companies sell? If they sell the "gold" plans then they are catering to a higher end customer which is more likely to pay. Second, what demographic are we talking about? 90% with no denominator is irrelevant. If 90% of 8,000,000 then you have something, if 90% of 100,000 then there is more information to be developed. I made 100% of my calls today...sounds good but was really only 5 calls. Third, does this count payments that may have been subsidized? Is the government/taxpayer making these payments (more reliable payer) or is the end consumer. My point is Hoosier Lib and Chip are making partisan observations without enough information the same way it appears some of the GOP may have done.
  • Pathetic
    I don't know what's more embarrassing, the pathetic GOP lawmakers for maligning Obamacare, or the morons who bought into the garbage they were spewing.
  • Further proof...
    That the GOP's main talking points regarding the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) are complete bunk. There were no death panels, no microchip implants, no skyrocketing premiums, no massive amount of layoffs or doctors leaving Medicare and no insurance plan death spiral. Can we please more on, expand Medicaid eligibility and work with the federal government to implement the law and actually help Hoosiers? Nah...that will never happen, this is Indiana and its an election year...time to crank up the rhetoric even higher!

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