This year the nation’s largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group, offered insurance in four of the health exchanges set up through the ACA; next year, it will offer insurance in 24. Supporters of the law have long hoped for greater buy-in from UnitedHealth and other larger insurers. As WaPo reports, this means UnitedHealth feels more confident than they did last year that the exchanges will funnel reliable customers to them—which is itself a sign that lots of new customers really are signing up. Since this was a major goal of the ACA, supporters will be pleased by the news.But other indications aren’t so rosy. Another story today in WaPo suggests that many consumers are deeply confused about their own plans, suggesting that initial signups won’t last. Totally unfamiliar with how to use insurance, those who are newly insured under the ACA are overtaxing support centers and call lines nationwide. If they don’t get the help they need, they may wind up defaulting on premiums or otherwise compromising their coverage:
The rampant confusion poses a potential hurdle for the success of the health law: If many Americans don’t understand how health insurance works, that could hurt their ability to use their benefits — or to keep their coverage altogether. […]The [Kaiser Family] foundation surveyed an estimated 4,400 such consumer assistance programs shortly after sign-ups ended in the spring. Ninety percent of those programs had been recontacted by consumers and 44 percent had seen people who did not understand how to use insurance, according to a foundation report released Tuesday.
It’s far too soon to know where any of this is going, and UnitedHealth’s market expansion is good news for the stability of the exchanges. But if insurers aren’t quick enough to help new customers overcome their confusion about the system, all those people have gained insurance may soon be back to being uninsured.