News: Quick Takes

N.C. sees large decline in number of people enrolling on federal health-care exchange

North Carolina saw a 10.5 percent decline in the number of people signing up for insurance on the federal health marketplace under Obamacare for 2017. Only two other states had larger drop-offs.

According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 613,487 North Carolina residents signed up for insurance on the exchange last year. During the new enrollment period through Jan. 31, that number was 549,158, or 64,329 fewer sign-ups.

North Carolina was one of 10 states in which the decline in enrollment was 20,000 or more. Georgia suffered the largest dip — 93,965. Texas was the only other state with a bigger slide than North Carolina, with 78,918.

Local markets in North Carolina tracked by the site, with this year’s enrollment listed first, and last year’s in parentheses, are:

  • Charlotte 182,958 (208,622)
  • Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem 94,596 (109,342)
  • Greenville/New Bern/Washington 39,429 (44,373)
  • Greenville/Sparta/Anderson/Asheville 117,053 (119,731)
  • Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville 149,774 (165,645)

Nationally, 9.2 million people signed up for an exchange plan this year. That compares to 9.6 million last year, CMS figures show. About 3 million of the 9.2 million people selecting a plan this year are new customers. Last year, 4 million new customers got plans.

The numbers available now don’t include people selecting plans from state-based marketplaces. Final figures will be released next month.

The new plan selections “were made from a market that experienced a 25 percent increase over the previous year in the average premium for the benchmark second-lowest cost silver plan as well as a 28 percent decline in the number of issuers participating over the past year,” a statement on the website says.

Call center volume from the 39 states that use the platform slumped year-over-year — from 14,569,745 to 12,622,981 — and the number of people using the website dropped from 29,422,294 to 27,874,430.

The enrollment declines are just the latest bad news for Obamacare, and its future in uncertain. Republicans controlling Congress are considering repealing and replacing it, and President Trump is encouraging lawmakers to do so.

The U.S. House Budget Committee released last month a fact sheet proclaiming “Obamacare Has Failed,” disclosing a host of gloomy findings. Those included projections the government health program will cost America 2 million jobs and $1 trillion in taxes in addition to the flight of insurers from the program, which has left 225 counties nationwide with only one insurer offering coverage.

“The Co-Op program was intended to demonstrate how well a single-payer system and public option could work. To date, more than 23 co-op plans have received a total of $2.4 billion in Federal loans. In total, 18 of the 23 co-ops have now failed, leaving only five co-ops still in existence,” the report says.

The failed co-ops have cost taxpayers more than $1.8 billion in funds “that may never be recovered,” the fact sheet says.

Dan E. Way (@danway_carolina) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.