Absent state action, federal policies could leave 1.2 million more Californians uinsured

According to an analysis by the Insure the Uninsured Project (ITUP), enrollment drops in exchange based plans managed by Covered California could result in as many as 1.2 million more uninsured Californians in 2019. The Covered California budget announced last week, projects an increase in premiums of an estimated 9-13 percent due to a combination of federal policy changes and related enrollment declines. The anticipated increases are attributed largely to the elimination of the individual mandate tax penalty, which incentivized younger and healthier Californians to join the coverage pool and is projected to lead to enrollment drops between 7 percent and 18 percent in 2019. In addition, other federal policy changes projected to impact coverage and rates include hardship exemptions for people with limited coverage plan options, reduced marketing and outreach budgets related to open enrollment, and reduced plan cost sharing subsidies.

Recognizing that maintaining plan enrollment can help mitigate anticipated rate increases, Covered California has employed its own strategies to counter the policy attacks. For 2018-2019 the exchange has increased its own marketing and outreach budgets, extended its open enrollment period, and created a work around so that some enrollees are insulated from the effects of the reduced subsidies.

In addition to these efforts, the ITUP report calls on Californian legislators to act further to stabilize California markets stating,

“Addressing the destabilizing impact of federal changes on California’s individual market falls to state lawmakers. California lawmakers have already introduced multiple bills to preserve the ACA market and stabilize the marketplace… Action this year to mitigate these affects will be important to protect the gains California made in reducing the number of uninsured.”