Five years after a disastrous enrollment period, the state’s health insurance exchange appears to be stable, and enrollment is strong and growing.
Officials at the Massachusetts Health Connector, a state agency that sells health plans for individuals, said Friday that 274,783 residents have signed up for 2019 coverage, a 9 percent increase from last year. Another 10,000 people have signed up but are still in the enrollment process.
The current enrollment period is the smoothest in Massachusetts since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in 2013, officials said. That year, to comply with federal law, Massachusetts launched a new insurance website; the site broke down and caused chaos for people trying to enroll.
“We’re very satisfied with the strong numbers,” said Louis Gutierrez, executive director of the Connector. “There’s strong interest and a relatively stable and affordable market in Massachusetts.”
It was not immediately clear why enrollment is growing. Individuals who buy coverage on the Connector previously may have had insurance through an employer or through the state Medicaid program, or they may have been uninsured. Most people with Connector plans qualify for subsidies that offset the cost of their premiums.
The growing enrollment in Massachusetts is in contrast to the federal insurance exchange, healthcare.gov, where individuals from 39 other states shopped for coverage. In those states, nearly 8.5 million people enrolled in health plans for 2019, a 4 percent decline from the previous year.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, extended insurance coverage to millions of Americans but has been a target of conservatives who view it as expensive government overreach. Earlier this month, a Texas judge ruled that the law is unconstitutional and invalid. Opponents of that decision, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, are planning to appeal. The court ruling does not have any immediate effect on insurance coverage.
Although Massachusetts has its own law promoting universal health coverage, which predates the Affordable Care Act, Connector officials continue to spend more than $1 million annually on outreach and education to encourage individuals to sign up for health plans. They also hire workers known as navigators to help individuals enroll.
Nine insurers offered health plans on the Connector for 2019, but just two companies, Tufts Health Plan and Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, drew the majority — 84 percent — of enrollees.
On average, premiums for Connector plans will increase 4.7 percent in January.
The enrollment period for coverage beginning Jan. 1 is over, but Massachusetts residents have until Jan. 23 to sign up for coverage that kicks in Feb. 1.
The state has a mandate that all residents must obtain health coverage or pay a penalty.
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