Hoosiers shopped around before picking Obamacare exchange coverage

When it comes to health insurance, Hoosiers apparently like to shop.

That was clear from data released last week by the Obama administration breaking down the 2015 buyers in the Obamacare exchanges.

The report showed that 34 percent of the Hoosiers who signed up for coverage for a second year on the exchanges selected a different plan from the one they had in 2014.

That was higher than the average of 29 percent for all 37 states that used the federal government’s HealthCare.gov website to run an insurance exchange.

Ranked by states, Indiana tied with New Jersey and New Hampshire for the sixth-highest rate of repeat exchange customers picking new plans.

Hoosiers, of course, had a lot more plans to choose from. There were nine insurers offering health plans on the exchange in Indiana in 2015, versus four in 2014. In Marion County alone, there were 68 different plans to choose from.

“This represents an extraordinary level of consumerism,” wrote heath law expert Tim Jost on the Health Affairs blog, echoing a message Obama administration put out to reporters during conference calls last week.

Jost and the Obama administration noted that among seniors picking Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, only about 13 percent of enrollees switch plans each year. Also, about 12 percent of active enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program and 7.5 percent of enrollees in employer plans switch plans each year.

But if the Obama folks had examined their own research on the individual health insurance market that existed before Obamacare, they would have found that 40 percent to 50 percent of customers left their plans each year.

Because of that dynamic, MDwise Inc. and other health plans selling on the Indiana exchange set “retention goals,” as well as goals for new customers.

What’s startling about the 2015 exchange enrollment is how many of the 2014 customers stuck around for a second year.

In Indiana, 110,569 folks who selected a 2014 exchange plan came back and selected another one for 2015. That’s more than 80 percent of the total number of Hoosiers who signed up for 2014 exchange coverage.

And that’s much higher than was typical in the individual health insurance market before Obamacare.

According to this 2004 study published in Health Affairs, only 35.5 percent of individual health insurance customers stayed in the individual market for more than 12 months. The rest either got employer- or government-sponsored coverage, or they dropped their coverage and went uninsured.

But with the Obamacare exchanges, more than twice that percentage of Hoosiers stuck around for a second year. That’s a tremendous change from the pre-Obamacare days.

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