Much to Applaud as Health Exchange Open Enrollment Season Begins
The open enrollment season for the federal health insurance exchange begins tomorrow, November 1, and runs through December 15 for coverage that will become effective at the start of 2019. Consumers will notice some significant improvements this year when they begin the process of selecting a health plan.
The most important of these is price. Average premiums, as measured by the second-lowest-cost silver plans, will drop for the first time since the exchanges began in 2014. The average 1.5 percent price reduction is a striking change from the average double-digit increases that have been seen in recent years and tells us that steps taken to stabilize the marketplace have had a positive effect.
I want to also credit Seema Verma and her team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for some important changes that have been made on the healthcare.gov website to assist consumers in finding the right health plan to fit their needs.
Among those changes are an improved interface (based on consumer input), an enhanced tool to help users search for local agents and brokers who can assist them in selecting and enrolling in a plan, and a “window shopping” function that allowed consumers to browse plans and prices even before open season began and without having to fill out an application.
Improvements like these are making the health insurance exchanges more of a consumer-focused system and the reduction in average premium prices is welcome news indeed for those of us who want to see the competitive marketplace succeed.