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Deadline Nearing To Buy Health Insurance In ACA Marketplace

Connor Tarter
flickr Creative Commons

The deadline to sign up for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace is less than three weeks away, on Dec. 15—several weeks earlier than last year’s deadline. It's not the only change in the marketplace.

This year's enrollment period is significantly shorter than before.

“If you remember last year signing up at the end of January and you do the same thing this year, you’re going to find out that it’s too late," says Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project in Kansas.

He says the compressed period might make it harder for people who need assistance to make an appointment with a navigator.

"You know, there are navigators that work year round," he says. "But, you know, obviously we staff up this time of year...and as far as I heard they are pretty swamped with appointments."

The HealthCare.gov website is also down for 12 hours every Sunday.

State-level numbers aren't out yet, but there is a national trend.

"At least nationally what we're seeing is a faster pace of enrollment than we've had in the past," Weisgrau says. "Which means that word has gotten out to people that the enrollment period is shorter and they need to hurry up."

Although the pace is up, Weisgrau says it would need to almost double to reach the same enrollment numbers as last year.

"I don't know if that can be sustained through the whole enrollment period," he says.

There's less advertising.

The Trump administration in March cut the ACA's advertising budget by 90 percent, to $10 million.

"If you're going to cut advertising if it's ultimately going to have the effect on people's awareness of the program," Weisgrau says.

He says many people believe the law has already been repealed, and don't know they can still get insurance on the marketplace.

Plans--and premiums--have changed.

Most Kansans can still choose plans from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and Medica (in the Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, BCBS of Kansas City pulled out of the marketplace; providers there are Medica and Sunflower).

"But what has changed is the type of plan that they're selling," Weisgrau says. "And so people should always go back every year to check their options."

Some premiums are up 20 percent this year, Weisgrau says, another reason to shop around.

"In the past premiums have gone up as insurance companies adjusted to who was in the market," he says. "This year things had stabilized a little bit, until the federal government started deciding to do things like cut the advertising budget and stop paying subsidies to the insurance companies, and Congress started talking about repealing the law. And all that uncertainty has caused insurance companies to bump up their rates to protect themselves."


Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx.

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