Obamacare: Agents signed up 43% of new California enrollment

Karyn Jackson, right, helps Pasadena resident Fernando Rico sign up for health insurance last year during a sign-up event hosted by the Los Angeles Assn. of Health Underwriters and other groups at Pasadena City College.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

California fell short of its second-year enrollment goal for Obamacare, but don’t blame insurance agents.

They accounted for 43% of new enrollment in Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange.

That compares with 30% of people who enrolled themselves online or 10% who turned to a certified enrollment counselor or navigator.


The strong performance of insurance agents in 2014 defied some predictions that online sign-ups and thousands of new enrollment counselors would diminish their role.

Agents helped enroll nearly 550,000 people last year, or 39% of Covered California’s initial enrollment.

For 2015, Covered California ended the second open enrollment with 1.4 million consumers. That included 495,073 people who newly signed up for 2015 coverage.

The state was aiming for 1.7 million enrolled in the second year of the Affordable Care Act.

But the state said it started the fall renewal season with fewer people than expected because a lower percentage of customers paid their initial premium and fewer people joined during a special enrollment period due to losing a job or moving out of Medi-Cal.

While short of its overall goal, the state said it made progress with some key groups, such as Latinos and young people.


Among those eligible for federal premium subsidies, 37% of new enrollees identified themselves as Latino. That was up from 31% in 2014.

The percentage of new enrollees who are 18 to 34 also increased to 34% compared with 29% last year.

As for health insurers, HMO giant Kaiser Permanente made the biggest move in 2015.

It grabbed 28% of new enrollment, tied for the top spot with Anthem Blue Cross.

Kaiser significantly lowered its rates for this year after finishing fourth in the exchange last year with a 17% share of the market.

Blue Shield of California suffered the biggest dropoff in new business, capturing just 19% of new enrollment after getting 27% in the first year.

Overall, Anthem remained the leader in exchange enrollment with 28% of new business and renewals, state figures show.

Blue Shield remained in second with 25%, followed by Kaiser with 24% share and Health Net Inc. with 18%.


Together, the state’s four largest health insurers hold 95% of the Covered California market. Consumers in Northern California counties, in particular, have complained about the lack of competition and choices in their area.

Twitter: @chadterhune