(Bloomberg) A snapshot of Obamacare enrollment in seven states suggests the law hasnt significantly increased competition in health insurance markets, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that enrollment has reached 5 million as the March 31 deadline is just two weeks away.
In California, for example, four big insurers have largely carved up the states market. The divide is more equitable than before the Affordable Care Act as Californias insurance market is now moderately concentrated instead of highly concentrated, according to a measure of market share called the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, said researchers at Kaiser, a Menlo Park, California-based nonprofit that focuses on health care.
There are some examples of smaller or newer plans being able to get a sizable piece of the market in the exchanges, but by and large a lot of the players in the exchanges that are the biggest were the biggest before as well, Cynthia Cox, a senior analyst at Kaiser, said in a phone interview.
The exchanges were intended to ease access and improve transparency for people who shop for insurance on their own, about 5% of the U.S. population. Democrats who wrote the law also hoped to break the dominance of some companies that existed in many states.
In California, WellPoint Inc.s Anthem brand signed up about 30% of the 869,000 people who used the states health exchange, Covered California, by March 1. Anthem had 47% of the states market before plans started to be sold on the new health exchanges on Oct. 1.
WellPoint also lost ground in New York and Nevada, where it fell from 28% and 34% of the market, respectively, to 18%and 12%. In Connecticut, WellPoints plans now hold 60% of the market from 45% before major provisions of the law known as Obamacare took effect.
Kristin Binns, a WellPoint spokeswoman, cautioned against drawing conclusions from the Kaiser data, which exclude customers whose plans were renewed from prior years and people who signed up without using exchanges.
Before the health care law, one insurance company held at least half the individual market in 30 states, according to the Kaiser report. That remains true in some states, even after the major provisions of Obamacare took effect this year. In Minnesota, for example, PreferredOne, a closely held company based in Golden Valley, Minnesota, has taken about 59% of customers on the states exchange, MNsure.
Before the health law, the states Blue Cross Blue Shield plan had 59% of the market, while PreferredOne had 3%. Blue Cross Blue Shield now has 24% share.
The Kaiser report said that PreferredOne took share by offering some of the lowest exchange premiums in the country for plans with very narrow networks of hospitals and doctors.
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