Hot Off the Press: Covered California Enrollment Jumps

Covered California just released enrollment numbers. It looks like 423,484 Californians are now with Covered California, a 50,000 increase in new customers from last year. Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, said that a key factor was that those getting subsidies actually had more money to shop with due to the work-around implemented to make sure the cost-sharing reduction benefit was funded.  With this increased support, Covered California even saw more new and renewing consumers opt for Gold-tier plans this year compared to last. Among those who receive financial assistance, 15 percent of new consumers selected a Gold plan during open enrollment, over three times as many as the 4 percent that selected a Gold plan last year. Covered California’s Gold plans generally have higher premiums but pay 80 percent of consumers’ health care costs when they access care. Gold plans were a better value for consumers this year because the premium was lower due to the cost-sharing reduction surcharge that was added only to Silver plans.  The Washington Examiner’s Daily On Healthcare noted, however, that California spent $110 million on customer outreach, far more than even the federal government.

NASHP: State-Run Marketplaces’ Enrollment Outpaces Federal Sign-ups
The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) just released new plan selection data that include the three SBMs that wrapped up their open enrollment periods as late as February 6.  With these final enrollment figures, the national total of consumers who selected a plan for 2018 comes to 11.8 million, which is about 3.7 percent less than the 12.2 million consumers who selected a plan in 2017. States that operate an SBM (state-based marketplace) or SBM-FP (state-based marketplaces that use the federal platform) show an aggregate increase of .2 percent over last year; states that use the FFM (federally facilitated marketplace) show an aggregate decrease of 5.3 percent according to NASHP’s data.

“For the first time we now have the full national picture of how the individual marketplaces did this year and it is a picture of remarkable stability,” Trish Riley, Executive Director of NASHP, said in a press statement.  “Despite all the uncertainty and challenges we have seen, particularly for consumers living in states supported by state-based marketplaces, we see millions of Americans continuing to benefit from the coverage they get in the individual market.” For more details, check out this state-by-state chart detailing marketplace enrollment figures in all 50 states and Washington, DC.

A Look at the Legal Hurdles to Universal Health Care in California
You may have heard that most people don’t think universal health has a real chance here because of the cost and vast number of legal hurdles. KPPC reporter

TECHNOLOGY

MassMutual App Allows iPHONE® X Owners to Use Facial Recognition
Cumbersome passwords may be a thing of the past for some Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. customers. The company announced it’s now allowing Apple® iPhone® X users to employ facial recognition as a secure password to information about their 401(k)s and other defined contribution savings plans. Facial recognition is available to iPhone X users who download MassMutual’s RetireSMARTSM mobile app for retirement savings from the Apple App Store®.

With Face ID®, iPhone X unlocks only when the user is looking at it, according to Apple. Face ID is designed to protect against trickery by photos and masks. Each user’s Face ID information is encrypted and protected by Secure Enclave, so the data doesn’t leave the mobile device and is never backed up to iCloud or anywhere else, according to Apple.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

The State of Employee Benefits
Benefitfocus, Inc., a cloud-based benefits management platform and services provider, recently published its third annual “State of Employee Benefits” report, which analyzed the anonymous employee benefit election data of more than 1.3 million consumers from 540 large employers.The data shows a continued shift toward consumer-directed health care, with the rate of employers offering at least one high-deductible health plan (HDHP) increasing more than 20 percent since 2016. This growth primarily stems from employers offering HDHPs alongside traditional health plans, reflecting the increased commitment among employers to offer more choice to employees. With respect to enrollment, the data indicates that employees’ health plan preference and benefits needs differ by demographic criteria, making plan diversity critical.

The report identifies other key trends for the 2018 benefit plan year, including:

  1. Employees are embracing health savings accounts.
    Participation in HSAs among eligible employees – those in HDHPs – grew by more than 60 percent, from roughly 50 percent in 2017 to 81 percent in 2018. Millennials were especially eager to adopt these accounts, nearly doubling their HSA participation from 2017.
  2. Higher earners don’t mind higher deductibles.
    The report points to mounting evidence that HDHPs are more appealing to employees with higher incomes. On average, employees enrolled in HDHPs for 2018 earn seven percent more than employees enrolled in PPOs—a percentage difference more than twice what it was last year. This trend is consistent across all age groups.
  3. Reduced out-of-pocket risk offsets rising premiums.
    As employers continue to fine-tune plan design, most employees will again see their medical premiums increase, but will also enjoy lower deductibles in 2018. Notably, PPO subscribers will see a nine percent decrease for family-coverage plans and a seven percent decrease for single-coverage plans.
  4. Voluntary benefits address a diverse set of employee needs, from critical illness to pets.
    In addition to options like hospital indemnity, critical illness and accident insurance, employers are increasingly offering products like legal insurance, identity theft protection and pet insurance to round out their voluntary benefit offerings. Over the past two years, the share of large employers offering identity theft protection rose 56 percent, with the share offering pet insurance up 80 percent.

For more findings, download the full Benefitfocus State of Employee Benefits 2018 report.

DENTAL

Free Emergency Dental Day for Kids in Encinitas
The Center for Natural Dentistry in Encinitas will provide free emergency dental care to local kids as part of the Children’s Dental Health Month of February.  Dr. Marvin Pantangco will offer the Emergency Dental Treatment Day to treat children under 13 years of age, who have a dental emergency and their family lacks the cash required for dental care. They must reserve their spot by calling the office in advance. More info here. The Day for Free Emergency Dentistry is happening on Thursday, February 15th, from 9a.m. to 4p.m. at 317 N El Camino Real # 106, Encinitas, CA 92024.

Yes, That Was a Correction You Just Felt (but you knew it was coming)
The GOP tax plan may not be to blame for what happened in the stock market the last couple of days. Back in October and November of 2017 a national study of U.S. investors for Global Atlantic Financial Group found that 74 percent of U.S. investors age 40 years and older were concerned about a stock market correction given the long running bull market. And virtually all investors (97 percent) said the market at its current level in December had risks, with 37 percent saying the risk was significant or mostly risky. The study was conducted by Ebiquity, a global market analytics firm, among 1,005 U.S. investors with investments in the stock market through stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, 401Ks or IRAs. Want to know more about what’s happening in the U.S. economy and how it impacts the insurance industry?  Check out the upcoming National Association for Fixed Annuities webcast, 8:30am PT, Thursday Feb 22.  Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide Insurance, will examine the current state of the U.S. economy and share forecasts for this year and beyond. Ayers will address:

  • The impact of the tax reform
  • Federal action updates, including the latest expectations for monetary policy in coming years and what that means for the economy
  • The effect of economic trends and policy expectations on interest rates and equity markets

EVENTS

LIMRA 2018 Distribution Conference
Feb 28-March 2, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, Ponte Vedra, FL
Sessions about agent retention, InsurTech, consumer engagement and more. Info and registration at the conference website.

NAC3, the North American Crypto Currency Conference
March 24-25, Playa Studios, Los Angeles
Event appropriate for seasoned crypto currency pros and those merely curious about Bitcoin, Ethereum, Blockchain etc. Tickets and info now available at https://www.nac3.io. Companies interested in sponsorship can contact info@nac3.io for details.

LAAHU Annual Conference
April 11-12, LA Convention Center
Registration, exhibit and sponsorship info now available!

IICF Casino Night
May 17, The Rotunda, San Francisco
Join the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation for a fun night of gambling and insurance industry networking while also raising money for community grants. The event takes place at The Rotunda, Union Square, San Francisco. Registration and sponsorship info available at IICF’s website.

NAILBA 37
SAVE THE DATE! November 1-3, Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, Orlando, Florida
Detailed information about NAILBA 37 will be available soon. Exhibit hall and sponsorship opportunities available here.  Or contact etoups@nailba.org for more info