People Don't Like Their Health Plan Options On The Federal Website

There’s good news and bad news for President Obama and health reform today.

The good news: young, healthy people are visiting the website.

The bad: many of them and others visiting the site don’t like what they’re seeing.

The Commonwealth Fund released a new survey today on who is visiting the federal marketplace and the performance of the website. It finds that 24% of those who are eligible for Medicaid or to enroll in a new plan visited the site in December, up from 17% in October. Still, 37% are unaware of the new marketplaces, down slightly from October.

70-seven per cent of those who visited the site are in excellent, very good or good health. The survey doesn’t have information for how many of them actually enrolled in a plan, but the demographics of those visiting the site are still a good sign.

In addition, 41% of those who visited the site are ages 19 to 34, right in line with the Obama administration’s goal of 39%.

It’s important that young, healthy people enroll in plans to ensure that insurers don’t raise premiums to cover costs. There are different provisions in the law to mitigate the risk that insurers end up with risk pools that skew older and sicker. In addition, insurers also have incentives to keep rates low during the next few years as they compete for millions of new patients.

For those reasons, the chance of a “death spiral” has always been vastly overstated. This survey reinforces that.

The news isn’t all good for Obamacare though.

60 nine per cent of those who have visited the site rated their experience as fair or poor, down only one percentage point from October. Of those who visited the site more than once, 29% say it improved while 18% say it worsened.

What’s more worrisome for the law is that 60% say it is either somewhat difficult, very difficult, or impossible for them to find a plan with the type of coverage they need. That’s actually up four percentage points from October. 50 eight per cent also say the same about finding a plan they deem affordable (down 3% since October).

That’s a big problem. The long-term success of the law depends on people finding plans that they like and are affordable. Based on this Commonwealth survey, they aren’t finding them.

Additionally, more people found it easier to compare benefits, premiums and out-of-pocket costs of different plans in December than October, but many are still having trouble doing so:

Clearly, the website still has a long way to go.

Finally, many of the people who have not visited the website plan to enroll in the coming months, including 58% of people aged 19-34 and 55% of those in excellent, very good or good health.

The law is not likely to collapse under its own weight. Premiums are unlikely to skyrocket in the coming years and a “death spiral” isn’t going to happen. What could severely damage the law is people disliking their choice of plans. That has always been the greatest threat to the law. The Commonwealth Survey shows that it’s a very real possibility.

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