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On N.Y. exchange, handful of insurers reap 80% of signups


By Paul Demko
Posted: January 14, 2014 - 3:00 pm ET
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More than 80% of enrollments on New York's insurance exchange for 2014 coverage went to six health plans. The remaining 10 insurers selling products through the online marketplace received less than 20% of enrollments.

Roughly 230,000 New Yorkers signed up for private health plans through New York State of Health by Dec. 24, the deadline for coverage that takes effect at the start of 2014. By Jan. 10, that figure had swelled to just over 285,000, according to new data released by the exchange (PDF).

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The breakdown of New York's exchange business—which accounts only for transactions completed by Dec. 24—is among the most detailed available in the country.

Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield sold 18% of the plans purchased through the online marketplace, the largest share for any single health plan. But Health Republic Insurance of New York—a startup not-for-profit insurer—was close behind with 16% of the market.

Peter Newell, director of New York Hospital Fund's Health Insurance Project, was not entirely surprised by Health Republic's initial success. “They had very competitive rates in almost every county they were in,” he said. “These co-ops are starting with zero covered lives. It's important for them to get enrollments early on, and it looks like Health Republic has done that.”

Rounding out the top six by market share were Fidelis Care (14%), EmblemHealth (12%), MetroPlus Health Plan (11%) and MVP Health Care (10%).

A pair of other upstart insurers—Oscar Inc. and North Shore-LIJ CareConnect Insurance Co.—were less successful in attracting significant market share. Just 2% of 2013 enrollments went to Oscar, which is touting a consumer-friendly, tech-savvy approach to providing coverage in nine counties. North Shore-LIJ—a large health system that is that is selling insurance for the first time—sold 1% of the health plans purchased on the exchange.

On Monday, federal officials announced that 24% of the 2.2 million enrollments in private health plans nationwide in 2013 were from individuals under the age of 35, causing some consternation that the risk pool might skew decidedly older than anticipated. For New York, that figure was 30%, significantly closer to the one-third threshold that some experts believe is needed to keep premiums affordable.

Roughly two-thirds of consumers who obtained coverage through the New York exchange enrolled in private plans. Of those, nearly 70% were eligible for a federal subsidy to help pay for coverage.

Slightly more than half of New York's exchange customers purchased silver plans, by far the most popular options. But 17% of consumers opted for platinum plans, the most comprehensive option. Just 2% of customers chose a catastrophic coverage plan.

Newell thinks that the enrollment data shows a positive mix in terms of age, health plans and level of coverage. “The numbers are large and there's balance,” Newell said. “I think they're really off to a very good start.”

Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko


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