Anthem Blue Cross widens enrollment lead on California’s exchange

Juan Zubiate of Anthem Blue Cross presents information about Obamacare at an outreach event last year in Los Angeles.
(Dan Krauss / Los Angeles Times)

Insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross stretched its lead over rival Blue Shield of California in the state’s healthcare-coverage exchange, new data show.

Anthem signed up 223,630 people through Jan. 31, or 31% of California’s exchange market as part of the healthcare law. Anthem is a unit of Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., the nation’s second-largest health insurer.

San Francisco insurer Blue Shield of California trails Anthem with a 29% share or 213,646 enrollees.


Kaiser Permanente, the state’s biggest HMO, is third with 131,448 exchange customers, an 18% share.

Health Net Inc. gained ground on Oakland-based Kaiser. The Woodland Hills insurer has enrolled 125,921 people for a 17% share.

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Health Net’s HMO plans are among the lowest priced in Southern California, while Kaiser has some of the highest premiums. Anthem and Blue Shield plans are often priced in the middle, depending on the area.

Overall, the state’s four largest health insurers account for 95% of exchange enrollment thus far. There are seven other health plans selling in the exchange, but many of them are smaller, regional players.

Open enrollment ends March 31.

Covered California said Wednesday that 728,410 people had picked a health plan as of Jan. 31. An additional 100,000 signed up in the first half of February, bringing the total to 828,000.

The state said 86% of enrollees from October through January were eligible for federal premium subsidies.

Individuals earning less than $46,000 a year and families below $94,000 annually may qualify for assistance. In California, individuals earning less than $16,000 can get coverage through an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.

In addition to those enrolling in health plan, 1 million Californians have been deemed eligible for Medi-Cal.

None of these figures include people buying individual health insurance outside the exchange. Only people who wish to take advantage of federal subsidies are required to enroll through the state marketplace.

Silver plans remain the most popular on the exchange with 62% of people picking those $2,000-deductible policies. Twenty-three percent of customers opted for bronze plans, which are cheaper but have $5,000 annual deductibles.


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