What a difference a month can make – particularly with regard to the performance of the new Health Insurance Marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov. At the end of October, only 271 Maine people had chosen a health plan, but by the end of November, 1,750 people had picked a plan. More importantly, 16,325 Mainer’s completed applications using the on-line website or mail but hadn’t yet decided on their new health plan.
After weeks of software and technical fixes, most Mainers going to the Marketplace are now able to complete the enrollment process. Because of the website problems, the federal government extended the enrollment deadline to December 23 for coverage that can start as soon as January 1, 2014.
The change in enrollment over the last two months is good news, but beyond the raw numbers, what does this jump in enrollment suggest?
1. The HealthCare.gov website is “fixable” – and the fixes are happening quickly. Although the roll-out of the website was a nightmare for consumers, people are having more and more success enrolling every day. Based on feedback from Maine’s community navigators and certified application counselors, their clients are far more likely to complete enrollment than be bumped off the site.
2. While the jump in enrollment is good news, getting enough people to enroll in new health plans takes a lot of outreach and education. Maine didn’t receive any federal (or state) dollars to do marketing, so it’s slow going getting the word out about this new way to get health insurance. I’m expecting enrollment gains to be steady but modest from month to month.
3. The fact that 16,325 people completed applications shows that despite all the roadblocks to signing up, people really want to find affordable health insurance. Having the security provided by good coverage has motivated people to come back time and again to find coverage even when the website was not working well.
These are just some of my thoughts, but I’d welcome hearing your ideas about what you think the surge in enrollment means and about your recent experience with the Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Post a comment on our blog, or on the enroll207.com Facebook page.
As the December 23 deadline for January 1, 2014 coverage nears, many marketplace-certified assisters are welcoming walk-ins to help people get signed up before the deadline. Help spread the word to the nearly 135,000 people in Maine who are uninsured that HealthCare.gov is finally ready to help them find affordable coverage.
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