One World has drafted letters and fliers to distribute to clients detailing five things they need to know about renewing coverage. “Call or visit the plan's website to make sure your doctor will be in the network next year,” the letter advises. “Also, make sure any prescriptions you take will be covered.” Similarly, Enroll America, which played a major role in promoting Obamacare coverage opportunities nationally, is creating a checklist it will distribute to partner organizations working in local communities.
Insurers that dominated exchange sales in 2014 expect that automatic re-enrollment will benefit them.
For instance, for 2014 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina signed up 232,000 people via the state's federally run exchange, which represented about two-thirds of all enrollments in the state. But when open enrollment for 2015 starts, the North Carolina Blues will face a major new exchange competitor, UnitedHealth Group. Still, the North Carolina Blues has a built-in advantage. Exchange plan enrollees who take no action will be automatically re-enrolled in their current plan. If that plan is no longer offered, the insurer can enroll them in the most similar plan it offers. That makes it likely the Chapel Hill-based insurer will retain much of its market share.
“The easier that it can be made for them to keep (their plan) if they like it, that's a good thing,” said Brad Wilson, CEO of the North Carolina Blues.
Web-based insurance brokers are seeking to play a larger role during the 2015 open enrollment. They were largely stymied in trying to sign up subsidy-eligible individuals for 2014 coverage because of technical problems interacting with HealthCare.gov. Gary Lauer, CEO of eHealth, said during a recent investor call that his Mountain View, Calif.-based company has set up a system that will allow it to enroll “large volumes” of subsidy-eligible consumers during the 2015 enrollment period. “If we had these processes in place during the last open enrollment period, we believe we could have generated significantly higher application volume based on the demand that we observed but could not address,” he said.
Still, one of the biggest concerns of enrollment groups is that consumers won't realize they need to update their income data through the exchange website, and therefore might not have accurate information about how much they are eligible for in premium tax credits and how much they will have to pay out of pocket in premiums for a particular plan. A lot of consumers need to update their income information because lower-income families often see their incomes fluctuate significantly from year to year. “We don't want them to get to the point where they're going to owe those subsidies back to the IRS,” Sutton said.
There also are lingering concerns about the reliability and usability of the exchange websites given the chaotic rollout of HealthCare.gov and many state-based exchanges last fall. Some insurers are worried about the federal exchange's capacity to handle the deluge of returning customers and an unknown number of new enrollees. Renewing enrollees will have only from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 to make changes in their reported income and their plan choice if they want those changes to be effective Jan. 1. Some observers fear that could overload the system during the first month.
“We won't know how good it's working until it's time for it to go live,” said Wilson of the North Carolina Blues.