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HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Obamacare Surge Boosts State Exchanges

Surging Obamacare enrollment during the pandemic will likely be a boon for states that are launching their own health insurance marketplaces.

Obamacare sign-ups spiked after millions of people lost their jobs and work-related coverage due to Covid-19. An increase in enrollees will likely reduce per-person costs for insurers, particularly as more healthy people look to get covered. That in turn could draw more insurers to the exchanges, leading to increased competition and reduced premiums, state health officials and analysts said.

Insurers may be especially drawn to state-based exchanges since states typically spend more money on outreach and marketing and may combine their exchanges with reinsurance programs that lower premiums, as Pennsylvania has done.

The Health and Human Services Department reported that almost a half-million people enrolled in the federal HealthCare.gov exchanges through May after losing their jobs, a 46% increase from the same time period last year. Almost 263,000 people newly signed up for coverage in state-based exchanges since March, according to a report by health-care consulting firm Avalere Health. Only eight of the 12 existing state exchanges that reopened, however, publicly released enrollment numbers, according to the report.

“There could be actually more than 1 million new enrollees to the exchanges currently […]

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