Slightly fewer Ohioans signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces this year, though it wasn’t as sharp of a drop as advocates feared.
There were 230,127 residents in the state who bought health insurance plans on the marketplace, which was about 3 percent less than the year before, according to final enrollment data released last week.
The U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, which tracks the data, stated in its final report that 11.8 million consumers selected or were automatically re-enrolled in marketplace plans, which is about 400,000 fewer than last year.
In the Dayton region, it depended county- by-county on whether enrollment was up or down. There were 10,103 Montgomery County residents who bought plans for 2018, down from 10,486 the year prior.
The sticker price for health insurance premiums continued to rise, though some Ohioans qualified for discounts.
For those buying insurance through the federal government’s HealthCare.gov, the average premium before application of the tax credit was $621, up from $476 during 2017 open enrollment.
“I would say it was not surprising, because there was a lot of volatility in the market last year,” said Chris Brock, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Insurance, which regulates the exchange.
Part of the volatility stemmed from when the Trump administration cut federal subsidies that reimburse insurance companies for some of the cost of offering ACA plans.
In addition, last enrollment season was shorted from the year before and federal funding for marketing and outreach was sharply cut.
The insurance marketplaces have also struggled with failing to attract enough healthy people to subsidize the high cost of sicker policy holders.
Major insurers also pulled out of the marketplace before enrollment season started, including Anthem and Premier Health, which at the time also ran an insurance business.
But CareSource, a nonprofit insurer based in Dayton, stepped up to fill the last Ohio county — and last U.S. county — that otherwise wouldn’t have had an insurer offering plans
And Ohioans still turned out.
CareSource’s Ohio Market President Steve Ringel said the insurer enrolled more than 90,000 people to Ohio plans during the 2017 open enrollment period, which was a 40 percent increase compared to the previous cycle.
“New enrollment and pricing seemed to be the primary driver. We were also able to expand our footprint to provide coverage in counties that would have been left bare, due to other insurers exiting the marketplace,” he said.
Earlier this year, Ringel had said that the negative news cycle may have even helped with enrollment by keeping the subject in the public mind.
“The biggest thing is it kept it to the forefront of people’s mind, and no matter what the news says you’re going to find out what the truth is for yourself,” he had said.