Apple Trees and Health Insurance: The Continual Growth of the Marketplace
Happy Spring! The season of growth. Just as flowers are blooming and grass is growing, so is the health insurance marketplace. We’ll talk more later about how the marketplace has developed over the years, but it’s undeniable that we are currently in a season of growth for health insurance.
One of my favorite things that experiences springtime growth are apples. Specifically, I love picking my own apples! There is just something so special about walking through the rows of trees and picking your very own apple off the tree.
Because of that, I’ve always wanted to have my own apple tree. Year after year, my dad, knowing my longtime desire to have an apple tree, would let me know that he’d be more than happy to help me plant one. But he also told me that I’d have to wait several years in order for it to start bearing the juicy, sweet fruit. And you know what? I never did plant that tree…I wasn’t willing to wait.
What if Planting an Apple Tree and the Insurance Marketplace Were the Same?
Several years ago, there was a big idea that overtook the American insurance space. And this was apple-tree-big! This big idea was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. You may have also heard it unofficially called Obamacare, but more simply, we’ll just refer to it as the ACA.
This very big idea, this changing-everything idea, this disrupting-an-already-disrupted-industry idea, did just that. It dug deep into the foundational ground of health insurance, and in many ways deep into the pockets of the American middle-class. There was a mess for many people left over. The digging had left dirt almost everywhere and on almost everyone.
Instead of getting into the socio-political weeds, let’s focus on what happened underneath that dirt the ACA dug up. You see, underneath it all, whether or not this was even the intention of those who started the digging…there was planted a new idea.
This new idea was that health insurance should be individualized. Instead of basing someone’s unique cost on the aggregate group, each person should be “judged” according to themselves. When you put it that way, it actually starts to sound a lot more like capitalism than the socialism fears of many who opposed the ACA.
Pruning Actually Brought More Fruit to the Table!
When the Individual Marketplace first opened in the fall of 2013, it looked as if everyone was interested in the show一new life had grown up from the ground! Major carriers were very curious to see how this would all turn out.
However, almost as quickly as the momentum arrived, it began to depart. Everyone started getting nervous and pulling their plans off of the menu. Major carriers like Anthem and United Healthcare exited entirely. Others even stopped offering commissions on their products to encourage sales growth. Money was not being invested, and things felt dangerous.
“The Marketplace is dying!” shouted those who had wished its demise from the beginning, followed by, “Is the Marketplace actually going to die on us?” from those who had truly believed in its genuine merit. Everything seemed to be falling back away to the very ground from which life had only just sprung.
Misunderstanding: Bald Trees vs. Future Harvest
While living in California for several years, I noticed one spring that all of these particular type of trees were nearly bald by the intensity of the pruning regiment they’d undergone. When I asked a local farmer, he explained that these were mulberry trees and they were particularly susceptible to fungus during their dormant season if not pruned properly and significantly. He explained that only when all of the limbs were cut down would the healthiest ones remain.
Perhaps the same can be said of the Marketplace? Indeed, no one can argue the stark decline that was seen during 2014 open-enrollment, just the second year of the Marketplace’s life. But in the years following, something special began happening again. From the pruning came even newer opportunities. And for those carriers who decided to stick it out, their wait was well worth it.
For example, let’s take a look at Ambetter, the largest carrier of individual health insurance in the United States. In addition to their company growth, they have regularly provided new and competitive plan designs and can even cross state lines now (this was one of the largest complaints from the earliest plans).
They fall under the Centene Corporation, whose stock on the NYSE has grown more than 500 percent in the past five years. Marketplace growth has been instigated by the advent of individual choice. For myself, that is the apple tree that I really wish I had planted! Talk about enjoying your own fruit!
But Ambetter’s growth is not the only thing we should be encouraged by. Christian sharing programs, like Medi-Share (the largest) and Christian Healthcare Ministries (the original), have seen incredible growth in their ministry designs as well as adoption to their solutions, with more than 1,000,000 members!
What’s Next for the Marketplace
Continuing down this growth trend, it was thrilling to see that after a four-year hiatus, Anthem is back into the Marketplace with select states and more to come in 2020. Another incredible development to individual health insurance are short-term plans like those from United Healthcare. Though not hosted on the Marketplace, these products are designed to be competitive and attractive, offering innovative methods and lower costs to keep families protected.
Spring has officially sprung for individual health plans! And the whole team at Remodel Health is more excited than ever to help spread the word. It’s our mission to spread the knowledge that new and better ways to steward your resources and serve your people have arrived. You have an apple tree in your backyard!