On Nov. 1, the fifth annual open enrollment begins on the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. And, given what’s been going on in Washington, there is, understandably, a lot of confusion.
Here are a few points to remember for the 90,000 Kentuckians who buy their health insurance on the ACA exchanges (healthcare.gov) and their friends and families:
▪ Start signing up early. The enrollment period has been cut in half — from three months to 45 days — by the Trump administration. If you wait until the last minute, you will probably run into long waits or even get shut out. The deadline for signing up is Dec. 15.
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▪ Most Kentuckians — 68 percent, according to federal estimates — will be able to pay less than $75 a month. This is because they are eligible for premium tax credits to help pay for coverage. An estimated 17 percent will end up paying more than $200 a month. In most cases, the credits will offset any increase in premiums.
▪ Comparison shop. Even though you’ll be rolled over into your current or a similar plan for 2018 if you do nothing, you might find a better plan by shopping. And, remember, the plan with the lowest premiums might not be the best deal if it requires you to pay higher deductibles and co-pays when you go to the doctor or hospital.
▪ Ask for help. The Trump administration has also drastically cut the budget for navigators (the people Kentucky used to call kynectors). But advisers are still available. Insurance agents and brokers also can help.
The Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange has a search tool to find agents and “assisters.” Informational events are scheduled in November around the state, including at public libraries and the New Life Day Center in Lexington. This site also can help consumers find help.
▪ If you don’t have health insurance, this is your only chance to sign up on the ACA exchanges, unless you lose other coverage or experience a significant life change, such as marriage, after open enrollment ends. People can sign up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program anytime during the year.
Despite all the Republican threats and bluster about repeal, the Affordable Care Act remains the law. And the people of Kentucky gained more than anyone from it. The rate of uninsured Kentuckians dropped from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 5.1 percent in 2016.
Health care costs remain too high and quality too spotty. A more responsible president and Congress would be tackling that instead of trying to turn the clock back on coverage. ACA policies provide preventive care and protection against bankrupting medical costs. Consumers will be voting with their time and money during this open enrollment.
Despite all the Republican threats and bluster about repeal, the Affordable Care Act remains the law.