The Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) Health Insurance Marketplace is set to begin its tenth Open Enrollment period today. American healthcare consumers can sign up on the federal insurance exchange at healthcare.gov or through their state marketplaces. In recent years there has been increased confusion surrounding Open Enrollment due to changes (and attempted changes) made to the ACA under the Trump administration, though President Biden has reversed some of the harmful changes that led to the first increases in U.S. uninsured rate since 2014 and largest single-year increase since 2008.
When Obama was president and launched the ACA, the Open Enrollment period ran 90 days beginning November 1 and running until the end of January. Trump cut Open Enrollment to 45 days along with outreach budgets his first year in office, limiting access to assistance and information for those in need. President Biden has set Open Enrollment to 75 days — now running from November 1 to January 15 — and reinstated funding and navigator requirements. The Biden administration has also instituted a monthly Special Enrollment Period for low-income people to enroll in marketplace coverage throughout the year. This monthly enrollment period could be especially critical to helping the millions of people who are expected to lose Medicaid coverage at the end of the declared public health emergency while many remain affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Consumers shopping for health coverage on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges can likely find lower premiums and more choices for 2022. According to a report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the average premium for the benchmark silver plan in 2022 will decline by 3% a month for the 33 states participating in the federal exchange. As of mid-September, a record 12.2 million Americans were enrolled in ACA policies following a 6-month Special Enrollment Period that Biden launched early in his administration during which 2.8 million people signed up for coverage on federal and state marketplaces.
There is no longer a penalty for not having health insurance, but even healthy people can be faced with extraordinary costs for unforeseen health reasons including COVID-19 — especially those without insurance. For those who have applied through insurance exchanges in previous years, they still have to update their information and compare their options for 2022. 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.