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Health insurance enrollments jump during heat of debate

Kim Morris | August 15, 2009

The health insurance companies affiliated with MedSave.com collectively reported record level enrollments in individual health insurance for the first two weeks of August. We are baffled to explain this sudden change in consumer purchases. The August heat and political debates seem to be counter-productive to expanding health insurance coverage, yet the data contradicts this assumption. August health insurance enrollments are traditionally lower in the summer than in other seasons. Yet total enrollments in the past two weeks exceeded the number in January 2008 and January 2009, which previously had the 1st and 2nd largest number of health insurance enrollments. From our observation this is a widespread trend rather than a niche effect. The August enrollment increases are spread evenly over a large number of insurance companies and include almost every type of health insurance from traditional PPOs like Celticare, to short term insurance, and supplemental health insurance like Core Health and Basic Health Insurance, as well as high deductible Health Savings Accounts.

We can list several possible explanations for this news:

  1. Consumers have given up "waiting for Obamacare" and decided to take action now on their own now.
  2. College students are enrolling for coverage earlier than in the past. (Some colleges are starting the fall semester earlier).
  3. The insurance industry's campaign to communicate about affordable health insurance is having the intended impact.
  4. Federally subsidized COBRA plans are expiring.
  5. Some small employers cancelled their group plans rather than be forced to shell out the cash to comply with the new COBRA law.
  6. Consumers' cash flow has improved, allowing the purchase of health insurance.
  7. The net number of people purchasing coverage due to hiring and firing simply spiked this month independently from larger overall unemployment data.
At this point we have no real basis to comment for or against any of these possible explanations but are likely to revisit this topic as more information becomes available.

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