Survey: Majority Of Last Year’s Obamacare Customers Won’t Return

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A majority of last year’s Obamacare customers aren’t planning to purchase their coverage again in 2015, according to a Bankrate survey.

Fifty-one percent of respondents in a survey of last year’s Obamacare exchange customers don’t plan to purchase an exchange plan this year, according to a Bankrate Health Insurance Pulse survey out Monday. Those who earn less and receive higher premium subsidies were more likely to renew their plans. Fifty-three percent of those who earn less than $30,000 a year said they’d return to the exchanges, while just 35 percent of those making $75,000 or more expect to return.

Higher premiums are keeping most customers away. Forty-three percent said higher insurance rates are their biggest concern about buying Obamacare coverage again; just one in five said they’re most afraid of a repeat of last year’s website glitches and error messages.

In many states, the insurance companies that earned the most customers in year one of Obamacare betted on lower rates in 2014 to attract their customer base and are now hiking premiums. There are, however, more insurers on the exchanges this year, as new insurers are looking to pull off customers with new prices.

Keeping the same plan from last year is more likely than not going to result in large premium increases, according to a July study from health consulting firm Avalere Health. The key difference between Obamacare exchanges from traditional private markets may be that exchange customers are better served by changing their insurance plan every year. (RELATED: Many Obamacare Customers Will Have To Switch Plans Or Face Skyrocketing Costs)

According to Doug Hough, an associate director at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, last year’s endless tech problems could lead many people to keep their plans just to avoid the exchanges anyway.

“They’re going to be auto-renewed,” Hough told Bankrate. “With 43 percent saying their experience last time was somewhat or very bad, they’re not looking forward to doing it again. That in itself will encourage people to just go with auto-renew.”

But while premium costs may keep customers away, most of last year’s Obamacare customers expect that the administration will have fixed the website in time for the second open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15.

Fifty-two percent of last year’s customers said they were somewhat or very confident that Obamacare exchanges will work smoothly this time around, compared to 45 percent who expect there will be more glitches. (RELATED: Flaws Found In Testing Of Delayed Obamacare Small-Business Exchanges)

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are over twice as likely to be more pessimistic about the exchanges’ performance. But part-time workers, who likely have fewer choices outside of the exchange, are more optimistic than full-time workers. Sixty-two percent of part-time respondents are somewhat or very confident, compared to just 47 percent of full-time workers who used the exchanges last year.

Just 39 percent of full-time workers said they’d come back to the exchange again next year, while a slight majority of part-time workers plan on purchasing coverage again.

The Obama administration has hedged its bets on Obamacare enrollment numbers this time around. Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell and new Obamacare CEO Kevin Counihan have both refused to predict how many exchange customers they’ll end up with for 2015. Burwell has emphasized the difficult few months her agency will have in trying to bring old customers back to the exchange while attracting new customers as well.

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Sarah Hurtubise