In Montana, Only 30 Obamacare Exchange Enrollments So Far

As Montanans continue to struggle to navigate the tangled web that is the state’s federally run healthcare exchange, one Montana healthcare executive stated that a mere 30 people have bought policies on the exchange. Meanwhile, a new price study shows that Montanans will be paying for more for health insurance under Obamacare.

Last Friday, Mike Dennison of Lee Newspapers published a piece with the first estimate of how many Montanans had actually signed up for subsidized healthcare on the exchange since its October 1 launch. According to Dennison, Jerry Dworak of Montana Health Co-op (MHC) — one of the insurance companies licensed to sell on the Montana Exchange — said that about 30 people had successfully purchased a policy through MHC. MHC is the only entity — government or otherwise — to provide an estimate for the number of successful signups in Montana.

“Every day it seems to be getting a little better, but the concern I have is it’s only getting better incrementally,” Dworak told Dennison.

It has been estimated that up to 200,000 Montanans are eligible to purchase insurance on the federal exchange.

The number of successful enrollments are low across the nation. Of the nearly 40 million eligible Americans, one report pegs the number of new enrollments at roughly 50,000 according to one report. Montana’s neighbor, South Dakota, has seen just 23 sign-ups according to the Associated Press. Hawaii had to completely relaunch its exchange on October 15 after zero policies were sold in the first two weeks of its existence.

Those who have managed to get to the exchanges and shop have been often been surprised to see that the policies are significantly more expensive. According to a study out last week from the conservative thinktank the Heritage Foundation, consumers in most states will see large price increases compared to pre-Obamacare plans.

“Individuals in most states will end up spending more on the exchanges,” study author Drew Gonshorowski wrote. “It is true that in some states, the experience could be the opposite. This is because those states had already over-regulated insurance markets that led to sharply higher premiums through adverse selection, as is the case of New York. Many states, however, double or nearly triple premiums for young adults. Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, and Vermont see some of the largest increases in premiums.”

Montana is no exception. Average premiums in Montana for a 27 year-old increase from $150 a month in the private marketplace to $213.80 on the exchange, an increase of 42 percent. The disparity does decrease for older Montanans and families, but the exchange plans are still decidedly more expensive. For a 50-year-old, the increase is 31.1 percent, jumping from $278.00 to $364.35 per month. A family of four will pay at least average 8 percent more each month, with monthly premiums going from $666.11 to $722.19.

Costs for the most basic catastrophic plans have increased as well. Media Trackers shopped pre-Obamacare policies at  eHealthinsurance.com and found that a 27-year-old Montanan can get an insurance policy for as little as $66 a month. According to data from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the lowest cost catastrophic plan on the exchanges is projected to cost $146.87, a 123 percent increase.