Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

How Is Affordable Care Act Implementation Going In New Jersey?

Affordable Care Act implementation in recent months has seemed like a car on an icy road. Will it end up in a ditch or regain control and head down the road? Nearly four months into implementation it is still too early to know for sure.

How Is Affordable Care Act Implementation Going In New Jersey?

Affordable Care Act implementation in recent months has seemed like a car on an icy road. Will it end up in a ditch or regain control and head down the road? Nearly four months into implementation it is still too early to know for sure.

But in spite of the disastrous launch of healthcare.gov, there are signs that the reform is finally gaining traction. We will not have a definitive idea of whether the ACA is meeting its goal of making affordable coverage available for another year or so (final 2014 coverage numbers and 2015 premiums will be the most telling), but early data released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides the most comprehensive snapshot to date.

The news is mixed. Enrollment though healthcare.gov accelerated rapidly in December, suggesting that the consumer-facing side of the website is finally working adequately. Open enrollment ends March 31, so there is still time to bring enrollment up to par. But the New Jersey marketplace enrollment numbers in the HHS report were not impressive. A total of 34,751 individuals in New Jersey had selected a marketplace plan by December 28. This is unimpressive in light of the more than one million uninsured in New Jersey.

Comparing the number signing up in New Jersey to New York is also discouraging. New York has just under twice as many uninsured individuals as New Jersey, but four times as many individuals selected a marketplace plan according to HHS, about 157,000 enrollees.

New York’s health insurance exchange, which is managed by the state, has worked better than the federal exchange on which New Jersey and 33 other states rely. A much greater level of effort to reach the uninsured with information about coverage options may also help explain New York’s better performance. The vagaries of the ACA led to much more funding for education and outreach in states operating their own exchanges compared with states relying on the federal marketplace. And New Jersey has not stepped up with its own effort to educate the public.

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