Rhode Island Exchange Sees Decline, Technical Problems

During the 2017 open enrollment period (OEP), state-based exchanges increased enrollment between 3.5% and 31.5%, with one exception: Rhode Island. HealthSource RI, Rhode Island’s health exchange, saw enrollment decrease more than 20% from 2016. At the end of the 2016 OEP, HealthSource RI reported 37,608 enrollees, but for 2017, the state reported only 29,420 enrollees – 27,295 of whom had paid and were therefore confirmed.

In a statement to AIS Health, HealthSource RI said there was not one single cause for the issue but that the decline can be traced to a few key factors, including:
• system and service issues,
• eligibility changes due to Medicaid and
• the exit of UnitedHealthcare from the marketplace.

Kyrie Perry, HealthSource’s director of communications, told AIS in a phone interview that the exchange cites technical problems as the main culprit.

“Just before the start of open enrollment,” HealthSource RI explained in its statement, “Rhode Island launched a new integrated eligibility system to improve the way it delivers health and human services programs.”In the future, this system will offer residents access to a number of benefit programs, but throughout the OEP “this new technology presented challenges,” according to the exchange. The new system prevented many Rhode Island residents from enrolling, Perry explained, leaving some without coverage as of January 31.

Re-enrollment issues and changes may have also played a part in the lower numbers, the statement said. Many residents who purchased commercial health insurance last year now qualify for Medicaid, accounting for a portion of the decrease since Medicaid is not included in the exchange’s enrollment numbers.

Another re-enrollment issue affected the state when UnitedHealthcare announced in April 2016 that it would no longer offer health plans on HealthSource RI. All customers who purchased United products in 2016 were not qualified for automatic enrollment in 2017, forcing them to once again visit the exchange website, which was experiencing serious technical difficulties.

To remedy that issue, Perry said, HealthSource RI will continue to assist customers affected by technical issues during a special enrollment period that might continue through March. The exchange expects that “when those issues are resolved there will be a rise in HealthSource RI’s total enrollment numbers.”

For more information and data on 2017 enrollment results, visit the In-app Downloads section and download Open Enrollment Results 2017.

Published by AIS Health
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