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Insurance Options Drop For WI Population Centers

By  |  October 18, 2016, 04:15pm  |  @briansikma

Wisconsinites living in key population centers have seen their health insurance choices limited since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange. Launched three years ago, the ObamaCare exchange provides a marketplace for consumers to purchase government-mandated health insurance coverage while potentially receiving a federal subsidy for the cost of that insurance. While anyone can use the exchange, subsidies are allocated based on the annual income of the person seeking coverage.

A Media Trackers review of data collected by the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance finds that in the ten most populous counties in Wisconsin, the number of health insurance providers has significantly decreased since 2013, the year the ObamaCare exchange launched. OCI regulates insurance companies and tracks data about plans offered in Wisconsin, both on and off the federal exchange. Data for insurers offering health plans in 2017 is available because insurers must submit their plans to the OCI for review.

In 2014, there were a total of 20 insurance companies that competed to offer health insurance to Wisconsin consumers. Thirteen of those companies offered plans on the ObamaCare exchange. Those numbers remain relatively unchanged for 2017 with the exception that three large insurers, United Healthcare, Humana and WPS’s Arise Health, have left the market along with several smaller companies who have stopped or started offering health plans in the state.

The total number of insurers competing in Wisconsin for 2017 currently stands at 17, with 14 of them offering plans on the ObamaCare exchange.

But a deeper dive into county-by-county statistics reveals that in Wisconsin’s most populous areas, the number of options available both on and off the exchange has dropped noticeably.

Milwaukee County, the most populated county in the state, had 9 companies offering insurance plans to residents in 2014, with 4 of them offering plans via the exchange at HealthCare.gov. For 2017, only 4 companies will offer plans in the county and all 4 will have offerings on the exchange.

In northeast Wisconsin, Brown County, home to Green Bay, had 11 insurers competing for business and 5 of them offering plans on the exchange in 2014. Next year, residents will have to pick a plan from one of 4 companies with 3 of them offering plans on the federal exchange.

The chart below shows the decline in competition for the top ten most populous counties in the state:

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 3.45.06 PM
While options have declined in populated areas, health insurance premium costs have risen across the state, socking consumers’ pocketbooks as they try to avoid the penalties imposed by ObamaCare on those who don’t buy mandated minimum coverage.

The decline in health insurance options available in population centers across Wisconsin, along with the decision of several large health insurance companies to stop offering plans in the state, once again proves President Barack Obama’s now-infamous claim of “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” to be false.