Open enrollment for health coverage in 2015 is underway, and some Missourians satisfied with their current health insurance may be surprised to learn that parts of their plans, including premiums, are changed for the coming year. The Cover Missouri Coalition, a program of the Missouri Foundation for Health, is encouraging consumers to review their options during this year’s open enrollment period.
I spoke with Ryan Barker, Missouri Foundation for Health’s Vice President of Health Policy, about changes in this year’s health insurance marketplace.
This interview has been condensed and edited for content and clarity.
What’s different about this year’s health insurance marketplace?
We had quite a few new insurance companies join the marketplace in Missouri. There's a lot more choices this year, so we're seeing the number of plans that consumers have to choose from almost doubling in many parts of the state. The other thing that has changed is that for Missouri there is quite a bit of variation throughout the state but the average silver plan in the marketplace has dropped in price 2 percent on average.
You’ve been encouraging consumers who enrolled last year to come back to the marketplace and reconsider their options. But to be honest, it seems like a hassle to have to reevaluate your coverage every year. Do you think these changes are something we will continue to see and consumers will just have to get used to?
Employers deal with this every year, so it's something that individuals and families are also going to have to do in the marketplace and that's just sort of how our insurance system works is that prices can fluctuate year to year, plans change. Now in the marketplace, folks will get automatically re-enrolled in their plan or a similar plan if they do nothing but because there's so much change in both prices and the different insurance plans being offered, we really are encouraging consumers to come back, take a look, see what their plans are, options are, and see if there's a different plan that may fit better with their family situation.
The Cover Missouri Coalition’s goal is to help every Missourian have health insurance. Given the differences in this year’s marketplace, how has your strategy for reaching consumers changed?
We need to continue to reach out to those who haven't enrolled in insurance. We saw relatively low enrollment in terms of the African American population, the Latino population and then really in rural Missouri. And so we are doing some extra outreach efforts towards those demographic populations. The other thing we really have been working on in 2014 since the last open enrollment period is insurance literacy. So one of the big lessons learned from the first open enrollment period is a lot of consumers, especially if they've never had insurance before, they're new to private health insurance is that there are a lot of really confusing terms. So trying to present it in a very plain language sort of way that helps people understand the concepts is really important for them being able to pick the right plan for their family situation.