Claremore Daily Progress

State/Nation

April 2, 2014

Nonprofit insurers struggle in new marketplaces

HARTFORD, Conn. —

A smorgasbord of options and lower prices for consumers were two of the chief selling points for President Barack Obama as he promoted his overhaul of the nation’s health insurance industry, predicting Americans would see “competition in ways we haven’t seen before.” Companies were even started as a way to encourage innovation and competition, namely 23 consumer-run, co-op insurers created with the help of $2 billion in federal loans.

But rather than promote competition, the co-ops and smaller nonprofits in some states have languished behind major insurers, attracting in some cases minuscule shares of the market. While Obama celebrated an early projection this week of 7.1 million enrollees under the Affordable Care Act, it’s too early to say whether the law ultimately will foster sufficient competition to keep premiums and deductibles affordable for consumers.

Many of the nonprofit insurers are startups and have faced challenges as they tried to attract customers, including: the computer problems that plagued many of the signup websites; plans that weren’t priced to compete; and a failure to develop brand recognition, due in part to restrictions on advertising and lobbying that were a condition of the co-ops accepting the federal funding.

“Between no lobbying and no direct marketing, that’s what you get,” said Ken Lalime, CEO of HealthyCT, a co-op in Connecticut. “It’s kind of tough to get your name out there and get exposure.”

Like nonprofits in other states, HealthyCT watched in recent months as customers chose big-name insurers on the marketplaces created under the federal health care law. Before Monday’s enrollment deadline, HealthyCT had 3 percent of signups in the state.

Just 5 percent of enrollees in Washington state’s marketplace had chosen community nonprofit insurers by the end of February. In California, more than 95 percent of people signing up for coverage went with four major insurance companies rather than seven regional or community nonprofits. About 97 percent of Oregon’s enrollees have selected plans offered by the larger insurers in the state while 3.3 percent chose the two co-ops. In New Mexico, an estimated two-thirds of those signing up selected one of three major insurers. And through February in North Dakota, where Blue Cross Blue Shield had 80 percent of the market before the law went into effect, just 516 people chose coverage offered by the nonprofit Medica.

Text Only
State/Nation
  • Gas prices continue falling in Oklahoma

    AAA Oklahoma says gas prices continue to drop in the state as demand nationwide drops below 9 million barrels per day.

    July 29, 2014

  • Perry: Texas plans to send 1,000 guardsmen to border

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to South Texas to bolster security along the Mexico border, a local lawmaker confirmed Monday.

    July 21, 2014

  • NASA renames building for Neil Armstrong

    NASA has honored one of its most famous astronauts by renaming a key building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    July 21, 2014

  • New arrivals worry some in the Oklahoma panhandle

    A family who says they were excommunicated from Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect has moved to a small city located in the Oklahoma Panhandle, raising concerns among some residents.

    July 20, 2014

  • Celebrate 45 years since man's first steps on the moon

    Now's the time to get moonstruck.

    Forty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on another world. Armstrong's "one small step ... one giant leap" on the dusty lunar surface July 20, 1969, still stirs hearts.

    July 20, 2014

  • US outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 20, 2014

  • Oklahoma Capitol renovation project previewed

    State officials have previewed preliminary plans for renovating the century-old Oklahoma State Capitol amid a display of artifacts from groundbreaking ceremonies for the structure.

    July 17, 2014

  • House passes tax breaks to boost charitable giving

    The House passed a package of tax breaks Thursday designed to boost charitable donations by seniors, private foundations and procrastinators.

    One provision provides tax breaks to people over 70 who make donations from their individual retirement accounts. Another reduces excise taxes on private charitable foundations.

    July 17, 2014

  • Should online accounts die when you die?

    Should your emails, web albums and other online accounts die when you do? Or should you be able to pass them down to a family member much as you would a house or a box of letters?

    July 17, 2014

  • Obama, Putin discuss Malaysia Plane incident

    The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama have discussed the Malaysia Airlines plane incident over eastern Ukraine.

    July 17, 2014