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3 things to watch as Obamacare deadline passes

Pras Subramanian

The Obamacare individual signup deadline came and went yesterday, and not without a whimper. In yet another setback, the healthcare.gov portal was down again after a rush of last minute visitors tried to sign up on deadline day, knocking the exchange out on two separate occassions. Despite the hiccups, the administration claimed nearly 7 million signees, topping the target of six million in six months the White House had established. To be fair, the six million target was scaled back from seven million a few months ago.

Les Funtleyder, partner at Bluecloud Healthcare, says there’s three things to watch now that the deadline has passed. “We may not know if Obamacare is going to work for a couple of years actually,” Funtleyder says. Case in point, final prices for insurance premiums depending on individual specifics may not be known until the late fall, he claims. This is because insurers require a few months to see who’s signed up and determine initial rates.

In the short term, things aren’t going to change too dramatically from a cost point of view for new enrollees. “I do suspect that premiums for most of us are going to go up, very similar to what we’ve seen in the past few years which is in the high-single and low-double digit range.” If state exchange rollouts and signups are successful, enrollees may see prices feeling downward pressure from new competitors joining the provider space. “If this year is successful, you’ll see more insurers join [the exchanges] next year.”

Medical devicemakers (IHI), despite the tax on devices going into effect last year, could also see a bump in the near future. Funtleyder sees the industry having weathered the additional costs associated with the tax and starting to innovate with new devices. Healthcare is cyclical, he says, and the device makers will likely see demand improve as more are enrolled on insurance plans and seek healthcare services.

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