The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 1, 2014

First month of health reform has been smooth, insurers say

Randy Griffith

JOHNSTOWN — After the challenging rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance exchange late last year, the region’s two leading insurance companies report a smooth first month of coverage.

“UPMC Health Plan has had limited issues related to implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” the company said in a statement.

“In general, we have seen modest sales volume for the exchange during the first few months. Things are going pretty much as we expected, and our ability to handle any and all situations that arise has been successful.”

“The federal marketplace enrollment has been rocky because of ongoing changes by the federal government,” Highmark Health Plan President Deborah Rice-Johnson said in a press release earlier in January.

“Despite the challenges, Highmark remains committed to making affordable health care coverage available through the federal marketplace, and we are pleased to see that so many individuals chose Highmark as their health insurance provider."

Like other reports, Highmark said its enrollment demographics have shown there are fewer younger people signing up.

But it’s still early, the company stressed.

“Because federal marketplace enrollment runs through the end of March, demographics at this point may not provide a total picture,” a press release said. “We can say that our membership is in line with federal marketplace numbers, which shows that there are more older purchasers than younger purchasers.”

The problem is, the Affordable Care Act is based on spreading the cost of health care to a larger population.

“These demographics are what we anticipated but are of concern because having balanced membership is fundamental to insurance,” Highmark said in the release.

A last-minute rush for coverage by Jan. 1 has bogged down Highmark’s enrollment process, the company noted.

“Highmark is working hard to enroll members to ensure they have active coverage as quickly as possible, and we appreciate our members’ patience,” the company said. “If a situation occurs where a member needs access to coverage and has not yet heard from Highmark about the status of his or her coverage, we are encouraging members to contact member service.”

Randy Griffith covers health care for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at