Here’s something Obamacare has hardly changed: the way one insurer dominates Rhode Island.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s share of the individual health insurance market dipped from 100% in 2013 to 98% in 2014, as the launch of HealthSource RI more than doubled total enrollment of those who purchase plans directly for themselves rather than get them through an employer or the government, according to preliminary figures released last week by Blue Cross and HealthSource RI.
Take a look:
Blue Cross was the only insurer selling plans to individuals last year, but finally got a little bit of competition in 2014 when Neighborhood – which was created in 1993 to take advantage of local Medicaid changes – began offering commercial plans to individuals who make up to 250% of the federal poverty level.
Christine Ferguson, HealthSource RI’s executive director, has said she wants to bring more insurers into the individual market for the 2015 open enrollment period, which starts Nov. 15. Her focus has been on UnitedHealthcare, which is already selling plans to businesses on the marketplace, and Tufts Health Plan, which has said it expects to join HealthSource RI for 2015 and sell to both individuals and businesses.
A study released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggested it’s “unsurprising” that Rhode Island’s highly concentrated pre-Obamacare individual market has turned into a highly concentrated post-Obamacare individual market. The study also argued other Rhode Island health insurers may have better luck in the future if they compete with Blue Cross on price:
The long-term success of the exchanges and other ACA provisions governing market rules will be measured in part by how well they facilitate market competition, providing consumers with a diversity of choices and hopefully lower prices for insurance than would have otherwise been the case. With the first open enrollment period not yet completed, it is too soon to tell how well the exchanges will work to improve competition in the individual insurance market, which historically has been highly concentrated and dominated by a small number of insurers in most states. Exchange enrollment will certainly change – especially during this last month of open enrollment, but also throughout the year as enrollees gain and lose eligibility – and it will be several years before we can truly evaluate the success of the new markets.