Jan 14 WellPoint Inc expects its growth
to accelerate because of the expansion of health insurance
through public exchanges and Medicaid under Obamacare, despite
technology problems, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Swedish told
an investor conference.
WellPoint, which runs 14 Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers
under the Empire and Anthem brands, is planning for another bump
in enrollment on the public exchanges ahead of the final March
31 deadline for 2014 coverage. After that, individuals without
insurance will pay a fine to the government.
President Barack Obama's administration launched health
insurance exchanges for individuals on Oct. 1 as part of the
Affordable Car Act. About 2.2 million people had signed up for
these plans by Dec. 28, most of them in December, the government
said in a report on Monday. The deadline for 2014 was Dec. 24.
"We expect a similar bump in March in front of the second
primary enrollment deadline," Swedish said during the
presentation at the JP Morgan conference in San Francisco.
Enrollment was held back in the months following the Oct. 1
launch by technology issues on the HealthCare.gov site, which is
run by the government and sells insurance in 36 states. The 14
other states running their own websites also had some technology
Swedish said that, while the front-end has improved, the
systems that transfer customer data behind the scenes are still
being fixed. Problems with transferring that data has forced
insurers to verify some sign-ups manually, and also caused
applicant records to be duplicated or lost.
"There is still work to be done to address some of the
back-end technology problems," Swedish said.
WellPoint competes against Cigna Corp and Humana Inc
, whose CEOs have already spoken at the conference. Aetna
Inc's CEO will speak on Wednesday.