Premera and LifeWise Lead QHP Enrollments in Washington

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The Washington Health Benefit Exchange released a comprehensive data report on Jan. 23 that provides the most detailed information to date about enrollments in coverage through Healthplanfinder from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2013.

lifewiseBy the end of 2013, more than 67,000 individuals had enrolled in qualified health plans (QHPs) through Washington’s health insurance exchange–a 233 percent increase since the end of November. Nearly 52,000 of the QHP enrollees (or about 78 percent) enrolled in a health plan that qualifies for a federal premium subsidy.

An additional 72,636 individuals completed every step of enrollment in a QHP except payment of their first month’s premium.

The report includes the first break-down of QHP enrollment by carrier that the exchange has made public.

According to the data, nearly two-thirds of individuals who enrolled in a QHP chose a plan offered by either Premera Blue Cross or LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, a Premera subsidy.

Premera plans were the hands-down favorite with consumers who went on Healthplanfinder.

Specifically, 31,275 individuals (or 46.5 percent of all QHP enrollees) purchased a Premera plan by Dec. 31. Premera is offering gold, silver and bronze plans in all counties in the state except Clark County. An additional 11,229 individuals (or 16.7 percent) chose a LifeWise plan (gold, silver or bronze). LifeWise is the only carrier offering plans in all counties in 2014.

The rest of the break-down is as follows:

Group Health – 11, 917 (17.7%)

Coordinated Care – 7,856 (11.7%)

CHPW – 1,535 (2.3%)

BridgeSpan – 1,359 (2.02%)

Kaiser Northwest – 1,119 (1.66%)

Molina – 909 (1.35%)

The enrollment report was discussed during CEO Richard Onizuka’s presentation at the Jan. 23 meeting of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board.

Margaret Stanley, Chair, Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board

Margaret Stanley, Chair, Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board

Board Chair Margaret Stanley noted that Premera and LifeWise make up “a big percentage of the enrollment.”

She asked Onizuka, “Can you explain what is happening there?”

“It’s hard to say,” Onizuka responded. “I think part of it is awareness.” He said Premera was already prominent in the individual market. “I think pricing was competitive,” he added. “Those are the main reasons I thought of.”

Onizuka also noted that “Premera was the most aggressive around outreach and marketing” of its exchange plans.

“And Regence changed its name,” Stanley remarked.

“Regence changed its name,” Onizuka said. “I’m not quite sure people knew what Bridgespan was.”

BridgeSpan is a start-up formed by Portland-based Cambia Health Solutions, the parent company of Regence BlueCross BlueShield. Cambia chose not to offer plans on Washington’s exchange under its Regence brand name, opting instead to offer plans through its BridgeSpan brand.

BridgeSpan plans have also struggled in Oregon. The Oregonian reported in early January that BridgeSpan accounted for only nine of the 13,693 policies sold through Cover Oregon as of Jan. 4. By contrast, Moda Health accounted for 9,611 policies (or about 70 percent of the total).