Week 17: Warnings for Insurers, New Enrollment Stats

by Kate Rogers

Source: FOX Business.com

ObamaCare’s 17th week of open enrollment brought a mixed bag of news: enrollment figures are on the rise, but the outlook for the insurance industry remains murky.

On Friday, the White House announced 3-million enrollees— still short of the number the administration had hoped for by the end of December — but an improvement from the last progress report of 2.2 million.

Documents released this week detailed the contract between the Department of Health and Human Services and IT firm Accenture and show the federal health insurance exchange, healthcare.gov, needs big improvements quickly. The documents said that if Accenture, which is now tasked with fixing the troubled website, cannot make back-end changes to the site by mid-March, the entire health-care industry may be in “jeopardy.”

Then on Thursday, ratings firm Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the insurance industry to negative from stable, citing continued troubles with the Affordable Care Act.

Larry Kocot, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, says continued issues with the website continue to weigh on the legislation’s success. There are still no mechanism for the site to process forms that detail enrollee information and payments from the government to insurers to cover subsidies and cost-sharing plans.

“Moody’s in an indicator that the finance people are watching the stability of the industry giving the instability of the market,” he says. “And there is a level of concern that will and could possibly grow unless the market is stabilized.”

Devon Herrick, senior analyst at the National Center for Policy Analysis, says the fact that the administration is expressing concern is also of note.

“They are saying, ‘we have to fix this quickly,’” Herrick says. “And investors don’t want to put money in insurers.”