The Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) Health Insurance Marketplace begins its sixth Open Enrollment period today. American healthcare consumers can sign up on the federal insurance exchange at healthcare.gov or through their state marketplaces. Last year there was increased confusion surrounding Open Enrollment due to changes (and attempted changes) made to the ACA under the Trump administration, leading to the U.S. uninsured rate to rise for the first time since 2014 and the largest single-year increase since 2008.
Open Enrollment period ran 90 days after November 1 until the end of January during the Obama administration but was cut to 45 days in 2017 unless you qualify for the Special Enrollment Period, extending the enrollment period by an additional 60 days. Further limiting access to enrollment, the healthcare.gov website has scheduled weekly 12-hour maintenance outages. Advertising and outreach budgets for Open Enrollment are also cut even more than last year.
New rules put out by the Trump administration this year allow ACA subsidies to be used for short-term, low-benefit insurance plans that can deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. These plans often have lower premiums than plans that offer Essential Health Benefits, but these changes along with the repeal of the individual mandate have actually made premiums across the marketplace 6-16% higher than they would be otherwise. For many this drastically changes the Affordable Care Act and potentially changes the nominal Obamacare to “Trumpcare” despite protestations that any failures of the law remain the fault of the original authors regardless of the Trump administration’s enacted changes.
Since federal resources are refraining from outreach, organizations such as Get America Covered are reaching out to combat misinformation and encourage enrollment. There is no longer a penalty for not having health insurance starting in 2019, but even healthy people can be faced with extraordinary costs for unforeseen health reasons—especially those without insurance. For those who have applied through insurance exchanges in previous years, they have to update their information and compare their options for 2019. If you have questions about signing up or want to talk through your options with a trained professional, free assistance can be reached by calling 1-800-318-2596 or visiting http://localhelp.healthcare.gov.
NeedyMeds will continue to provide information as the need for assistance navigating the often expensive landscape of healthcare rises. The NeedyMeds website has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), and Free/Low-cost/Sliding-scale Clinics to help those in need. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can save users up to 80% off the cash price of prescription medications for those without insurance or choose to use the card instead of insurance. In addition to the plastic card, the card is available in a printable form or a smartphone app for Apple and Android devices. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.