Allowing U.S. health insurers to build interfaces that bypass portions of would be a positive for the industry, according to Fitch Ratings.

While early last week, President Obama delayed the application deadline and allowed insurers in three states to directly enroll customers in Affordable Care Act health plans, Fitch says alternative websites are unlikely to be developed even though the ability to bypass might improve the quality and timeliness of the data that insurers receive regarding new exchange-sourced policyholders.

The government website has been plagued by technical problems since its launch two months ago, including a bug that prevented Social Security numbers from being included in data sent to insurers, blocking complete enrollments in health plans. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced on Monday that bug has been fixed and will end most of those errors.

The ongoing complexity of the website could contribute to misinformation and lead to lower profitability in health insurers' exchange-sourced businesses, Fitch said. According to the rating agency, the level of interest among insurers to commit resources to build their own sites, or to place themselves in the middle of the website controversy, is questionable. In addition, it is likely that the government would be very hesitant to allow the interfaces. They could be viewed as limiting the marketplace by reducing consumers' ability to comparison shop.

More than 1 million visitors gave the Obamacare website another chance yesterday as the government continued to work on software repairs, including a fix to the system that sends customer data to insurers. And, while 106,185 people were able to select private plans through the federal and state exchanges in October, almost a million more had abandoned the application process before choosing a plan amid website outages and software problems.

Geographically concentrated health insurers, particularly Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans, are likely to add the most enrollees on a percentage basis from state-sponsored health insurance exchanges formed under the Affordable Care Act, Fitch said. Fitch attributes this to the single-state focus of many of these insurers, typical large market shares in their respective states, and a common strategic focus that emphasizes providing consistent health insurance coverage.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Digital Insurance content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access