HSRI: Newly insured numbers have tripled halfway to enrollment deadline

HEALTHSOURCE RI SAID that 1,484 individuals and families have since open enrollment for health insurance began Nov. 1. Enrollment ends Dec. 15.
HEALTHSOURCE RI SAID that there were 1,484 more newly insured individuals and families year over year since open enrollment for health insurance began Nov. 1. This year, enrollment ends Dec. 15.

PROVIDENCE — HealthSource RI, the state-based Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange, reports a record number of new people – 1,484 individuals and families, three times the number in 2016 – enrolling in health insurance at the halfway point of the enrollment period ending Dec. 31.

At this time last year, just 476 new customers had signed up, said Kyrie Perry, director of communications, marketing and outreach for HSRI. The total number of people signed up thus far is 26,712, about 89 percent of last year’s total of about 30,000 people. Perry said.

“The number of new enrollees we’re seeing is significant,” said Perry, who noted people interested in avoiding a gap in their insurance should sign up by Dec. 23.

The latest enrollment numbers show a continuing positive trend for HSRI, reported five days after the start of the Nov. 1 enrollment period, attributed at the time to the exchange’s auto-renewal program.

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Perry said the federal enrollment deadline, set at Dec. 15 by the Health and Human Services Department by President Donald Trump, much earlier than the 2016 deadline of Jan. 31, doesn’t apply to Rhode Islanders. Rhode Island, one of 13 states with its own exchange, is able to set its own deadlines for insurance enrollment.

But the federal deadline is aiding the effort to sign people up locally, because people seeing the earlier deadline are likely to rush to sign up sooner. Perry said.

Trump has also cut the funding provided through the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services for advertising the enrollment period by 90 percent, from $100 million to $10 million, but Rhode Island is again unaffected by the federal action, since HSRI relies on state funding for their marketing and advertising efforts.

“It is roughly the same as in previous years,” Perry said.

HSRI’s efforts were also deliberately planned to begin about six weeks earlier than last year in anticipation of the challenges imposed by the Trump administration, she said. Last year, their marketing effort began in late October. This year, they started in early September.

The marketing was also strategically focused on digital advertising, including social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as targeted SEO and other digital ads.

Another advantage HSRI has she said, is the percentage of people already enrolled in health care plans in Rhode Island is so high, at about 96 percent Perry said, that HSRI has a very good idea of who they haven’t reached yet, and can focus their marketing efforts for maximum effect.

Perry said that during regular meetings of the 13 state based exchanges, she has heard anecdotal accounts of similar success in enrollment figures. She said she’s also seen evidence of that in their numbers.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.

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