DOVER, Del. (AP) — Fewer than 1,000 Delaware residents have enrolled in the state’s new health insurance exchange under the federal health care reform law, but officials said Monday that the enrollment process is improving as a key deadline approaches.
Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf told the state health care commission that 793 Delawareans had chosen an insurance plan under the federal Affordable Care Act as of Dec. 12 and had paid the first month’s premium. The announcement marks the first time officials have said how many Delawareans have actually paid for coverage under the ACA.
Last week, federal officials reported 431 enrollees in Delaware as of Nov. 30. That figure included people who had not paid their first premiums.
Landgraf said the new enrollment number reflects “positive momentum.” Nevertheless, the number of enrollees still represents less than 2.5 percent of the 35,000 Delawareans that officials have said they hope to enroll.
“This is a critical time relative to enrollment in the Delaware health insurance marketplace,” Landgraf acknowledged, noting a Dec. 23 deadline for enrolling for coverage effective Jan. 1. Insurance carriers are required by federal officials to accept initial premium payments through Dec. 31 for coverage starting Jan. 1, she added.
Landgraf said many Delawareans have enrolled on their own after consulting with one of four community organizations hired with $4 million in public funds to teach people about the health insurance law and help them enroll for coverage.
Officials said less than 10 percent of the people who have enrolled in Delaware’s exchange did so in the presence of marketplace guides. The marketplace guide organizations reported 67 enrollments as of Friday, a significant improvement from the four enrollments they reported in the first month.
Working with those organizations, officials plan a “dramatic push” of outreach activities over the next week to help people enroll by Dec. 23, said Landgraf, who expects enrollments to spike in late March just before open enrollment ends.
Meanwhile, officials are trying to determine how many Delawareans who applied for insurance coverage under the ACA were identified as eligible for Medicaid even though their household incomes exceed the threshold.
While citing several technical improvements to the federal website Delawareans must use to enroll, Landgraf said problems remain. Those problems include incorrect Medicaid eligibility determinations and insurers getting incorrect or incomplete information from the federal website. Landgraf said the error rate for the latter has been reduced from about one in four cases to one in 10.
Officials said the federal website has identified 2,950 Delawareans as potentially eligible for Medicaid. But that number includes duplications, and it’s unclear how many incorrect eligibility determinations have been made. State officials are working to identify the Delawareans with incorrect Medicaid eligibility determinations and to refer them back to the exchange to apply for private insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, as the March enrollment deadline approaches, Delaware officials are planning various marketing activities aimed at key target populations, including the Hispanic community and people ages 18 to 29.
Insurance premiums paid by healthy young people who aren’t likely to rack up large medical bills are a key financial underpinning of the Affordable Care Act, but Landgraf said she is still awaiting demographic data on Delaware enrollees to determine whether young people are enrolling.
While working to enroll people in Delaware’s exchange, officials reported last month that some 12,000 Delawareans had received notices that their current insurance policies would be canceled because they didn’t meet the ACA criteria. Following President Barack Obama’s lead, Delaware insurance officials subsequently reached agreements with carriers to offer early renewals for current policies whose coverage was to end before March 31.