HELENA — Since the launch of the federal government’s online health insurance “marketplace” in Montana last October, a net 30,000 Montanans have gained new health coverage, the state auditor’s office said Tuesday.
Jesse Laslovich, chief legal counsel for Auditor Monica Lindeen, told a legislative panel that the changes have reduced the rate of Montanans without health insurance from nearly 20 percent to 16.9 percent.
However, Laslovich said the numbers are estimates culled from a survey of the state’s four largest insurers selling polices in the individual market, and that the office won’t know the “definitive numbers” until health insurers file annual reports next March.
Some of those people who gained coverage also didn’t buy health insurance, but rather signed up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), which are state-federal program that pays medical bills for the poor.
Under the federal health-care overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act, the government launched its online marketplace in Montana last Oct. 1, with three companies offering health insurance policies to individuals.
People earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $46,700 for a single person, could be eligible for subsidies on a policy bought through the marketplace.
The marketplace initially had major technical problems and didn’t really work until December, and consumers had until March 31 to buy a policy through the marketplace. The earliest policies took effect Jan. 1.
Laslovich explained that the auditor’s office, which regulates the insurance industry in Montana, looked at Montanans who gained — or lost — health coverage in the first four months this year, in the wake of the marketplace launch.
Here’s the breakdown on who gained and lost coverage, according to Lindeen’s office:
— As of April 30, about 26,400 additional people had individual health insurance policies. It’s estimated that about 40 percent of the people with coverage bought their policy through the online marketplace.
— About 8,700 people gained coverage through Medicaid and CHIP.
— About 10,300 fewer people were covered by small-group policies, but at least half of those went to self-funded business plans, Laslovich said, so the estimated net reduction is about 5,150.
— When the 5,150 is subtracted from the total increases in Medicaid, CHIP and the individual market, the net increase in covered “lives” or people is 30,000, he said.
Laslovich also said a fourth health insurer, a subsidiary of Assurant Health/Time Insurance, has said it will be offering products on the marketplace later this year. The companies offering policies already are Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and the Montana Health Co-op.