Open enrollment for Obamacare 2018 plans began Nov. 1. For most states, the last day to sign up is Dec. 15. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
Updated to reflect recent data from from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The reality of an early deadline for individual health insurance is hitting shoppers and navigators are bracing for a busy final nine days of the Obamacare open enrollment season.
Tatum Allsep, executive director at Music Health Alliance, isn’t sure the team will be able to get to everyone who wants help picking a plan between now and Dec. 15. They are working on a tip sheet so people can have a resource to use on their own.
So far the team at the music industry non-profit has helped about 1,300 people enroll in plans. More than 92,000 people had selected a plan from Nov. 1-Dec.2, according to federal data.
And navigators across the state, coordinated by Family & Children’s Service, helped 1,284 people get into a plan in November. An additional 798 were assisted with TennCare or CoverKids applications.
The deadline to buy insurance for 2018 is Dec. 15 — six weeks earlier than the previous year — and it’s creating a scramble.
“The deadline is sneaking up on people. I don’t think it registered with people,” said Allsep. “We are having this huge influx in the last few days of requests for assistance and we’re capped.”
Insurer letters make people wary of what premiums they will find
People who reach out for appointments are often convinced they won’t be able to find an affordable plan, navigators said. Premiums for plans jumped this year on insurers’ concerns about the future of subsidies and raised plans to mitigate risk.
Tax credits are assessed based on the premium of a certain silver plan, which went up because of insurers’ concerns.
But the letters mailed early in enrollment to customers don’t reflect the 2018 subsidy.
Sandy Dimick, Get Covered TN program director, said people are panicked by the letters and think coverage won’t be affordable. But most who qualify for subsidies find premiums well below $50.
The only returning insurers on the exchange are BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cigna. Members of both companies got shocking letters in the mail.
“It scared people to death for absolutely no reason,” said Allsep.
Mary Danielson, spokeswoman for BCBST, said the letters are a requirement and “only reflect estimated tax credits based off of last year’s credits for the member. We can’t provide a true number until the first month’s bill.
Those who don’t qualify for subsidies are hit with a perennial premium hike.
People ‘grateful’ for subsidies now, wonder what 2018 will bring politically
Congress was unsuccessful with several attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But a component of the Senate tax bill will repeal the individual mandate — if it survives negotiations with the House.
Eliminating the individual mandate is expected to raise premiums because those who opt to go without coverage will likely be healthier — and would have offset people who use more services.
A pair of bipartisan legislation proposed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would lower premiums even if the mandate is repealed, according to a study by consulting firm Avalere Health.
Neither bill has had a vote.
The prospect of more changes or higher prices is looming over those shopping now.
The individual marketplace has yet to have stability in successive years and people have come to expect a changing roster of insurers, political rhetoric and sticker shock, said Allsep.
“I think next year will be more challenging,” said Allsep. “There is a very real awareness that this could be the last year for subsidies — but it’s been that way. I think our clients are grateful they have them.”
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