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Insurer Estimates of Health Law Sign-Ups Contrast with GOP Report

By Melissa Attias, CQ Roll Call

May 7, 2014 -- Democrats recently seized on health insurer estimates that 80 percent to 90 percent of the people who signed up for coverage on the health law's insurance exchanges also paid their first month's premiums, emphasizing the disconnect with a Republican report claiming only 67 percent had paid up.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the figure last week and immediately drew fire from Democrats and the Obama administration. Diana DeGette of Colorado, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, noted at a hearing last week that the report cut off responses at April 15, before some premiums were due.

"I'm glad we've got the insurers here today to clear up this record," DeGette said.

While insurers emphasized that the enrollment data is not final and continues to change, some provided estimates for the lawmakers.

Paul Wingle, Aetna Inc.'s executive director of individual business and public exchange operations and strategy, said the payment rate of those who had reached their due date on the federal exchange as of the third week of April has been in the low to mid-80 percent range.

Dennis Matheis, president of central region and exchange strategy for Wellpoint Inc., noted that the pay up rate varies depending on whether the total number of applications and payments are included or if the calculation is limited to people whose payment due dates have passed. Applying the second criteria on the federal exchange from Oct. 1 through April 15 yields a figure of up to 90 percent, Matheis said.

J. Darren Rodgers, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Health Care Service Corp., provided a chart that showed that policies with effective dates of Jan. 1 to April 1 had on-exchange first payment rates of 83 to 88 percent. That compares to a 68 percent payment rate for policies with a May 1 effective date, according to his testimony, because the payment deadlines may not have all passed. The company does business as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

The hearing also prompted visible frustration from Republicans, who asked for additional data from the companies without much success.

Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa., asked whether people are paying less than the amount they paid in previous years and how many had lost their insurance. He also asked whether premiums for 2015 will increase, but the insurance executives said their rates are not yet finalized and will vary based on geography and other factors.

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