Open enrollment starts today for local residents planning to buy health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
This year’s open enrollment runs until Dec. 15 and kicks off amid a backdrop of uncertainty for the 2010 law, also known as Obamacare, which has faced multiple repeal efforts this year.
As enrollment season begins, here’s what you need to know this year.
1. The sticker price for premiums in the exchanges are sharply up this year.
On average, premiums will cost about 34 percent more in Ohio next year. About 11 percent of the increase is because the Ohio Department of Insurance required insurance companies to assume that payments will end from the federal government to subsidize lower cost plans. However, costs had been rising even before the 11 percent increase because insurance companies have been struggling to get enough young, healthy people to buy insurance in order to subsidize the high costs of health care for older and sicker enrollees. The weighted average premium for an individual market plan will be $5,798.83 in 2018. That is a 119 percent increase from 2013.
2. While the sticker prices have hiked, the actual prices have gone down for many plans.
The Associated Press reported that in an odd twist, even though prices are rising for Obamacare health insurance plans, many people might actually pay nothing for policies sold on the exchanges. An analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 1,540 counties a hypothetical 40-year-old making $25,000 a year can get a basic “bronze” plan under the ACA next year for zero monthly premium.
It’s partly as a result of administration actions that raised the underlying cost of insurance, leading to higher federal spending for premium subsidies.
Bronze plans typically have annual deductibles of $6,000 or more but might be attractive to healthy young people.
3. There’s less time to enroll this year.
If you want to enroll into an insurance policy through Obamacare, there’s a shorter open enrollment period this year. People will need to enroll by between today and Dec. 15, compared to last year’s enrollment period from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31.
4. There are fewer resources available to help people sign up this year.
If residents want help signing up for insurance plans sold on the exchanges, they can get one-on-one help from programs with federally funded “navigators” that can walk through the available options to chose from.
However, outreach programs run by navigators are facing sharp budget cuts this enrollment season.
Resolute Certified Navigators is the local navigator service that serves a 15 county area in western Ohio, and it also got a 71 percent of its funding for regional outreach, knocking it down to a $39,000 budget.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks, which had been the biggest receiver of navigator funding in Ohio, dropped its navigator program after its funding was cut 71 percent, down from $1.7 million to about $486,000.
5. The cuts place pressure on Dayton-based CareSource.
CareSource, which primarily is a Medicaid managed care provider, also sells private health insurance plans on the marketplaces and expanded its offerings this year into new counties in Ohio and other states. Other insurers have lost money by selling on the exchanges and there will be half as many insurers selling plans in Ohio year after insurers like Anthem fled.
Despite cuts to federal outreach programs to sign people up for the exchanges, CareSource said previously that it remains committed to the exchanges and to serving uninsured populations with access to affordable care.
“We understand how important health care is to individuals and their families and we’ve seen the impact health and well-being has on governmental dependency and economic stability. We remain committed to the Marketplace and those who have trusted us to provide them with health care coverage,” the company said.