Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace ends on February 15, 2015. Directions for signing up, including details on fees, exemptions, enrollment periods, and information on what to do if you miss the ACA deadline can be found here.
The Affordable Care Act is once again at the top of the agenda for the new Republican Congressional majority. Yesterday, the House debated a bill that would redefine full-time work from 30 hours to 40 hours a week, reducing the number of workers who would be offered health insurance by their employers. Republicans have argued that by requiring companies to offer health insurance to employees working 30 or more hours, the health law creates an incentive for employers to reduce workers’ hours to below 30 per week. Therefore, creating a way for employers to avoid providing coverage or paying a fine. The bill is expected to pass the House and go to the Senate. However, the White House says that if the bill reaches President Obama’s desk, he will veto it.
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Between November 15 and December 18, HealthCare.gov enrolled 1.9 million new customers for health insurance. During the same time, 4.5 million existing policyholders re-enrolled or were automatically renewed into their existing policy or similar one beginning January 1, 2015. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell believes the numbers indicate “an encouraging start.”
For those who were re-enrolled, percentages around the mid-to high-30s logged into the system and either renewed their old plans or changed it to a different one. The rest were re-enrolled automatically. Anyone who was auto-renewed can change plans until February 15, 2015. Increased competition among plans, variations in premiums or benefits, and changes in financial circumstances have caused many people to switch plans.
Burwell remained tight-lipped about whether her department is making contingency plans in the event the Supreme Court rules that subsidies are not available in the 37 states where HealthCare.gov is operating the exchange.
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According to recent report released by the National Association of State Budget Officers, states are receiving and spending more money on the Medicaid health insurance program. The Affordable Care Act allowed more people to enroll in Medicaid and gave states 90 to 100 percent reimbursements for new enrollees. In fiscal year 2014, the increase in federal funds to states was almost entirely due to additional Medicaid dollars. Although Medicaid spending rose in most states, it was mostly funded by the federal government. Federal funding for Medicaid increased 17.8 percent, but state dollars directed towards it grew only 2.7 percent, according to the report.
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In order to increase transparency, CMS has released new data giving consumers and researchers the tools and information they need to review 2015 health insurance plan information. New choices and more competition means that consumers will have even more affordable options during Open Enrollment this year. With 25 percent more issuers participating in the Marketplace this year, more than 90 percent of consumers will be able to choose from three or more issuers, up from 74 percent in 2014.
The data released today includes the following:
- Health Insurance Marketplace Landscape Files
- Health Insurance Marketplace Public Use Files
- Rate Review Public Use File
To compare plans, prices, covered benefits with physician and hospital networks in your area before open enrollment, click here.
*Open Enrollment in the Marketplace begins tomorrow, November 15, 2014 and runs through February 15, 2015.
Click here to read the CMS press release.
Last night, American voters “stopped the Medicaid expansion dead in its tracks” when they elected Republican candidates determined to change or roll back the law in states that have already expanded the program. States that elected officials rejecting federal funds to expand Medicaid include Wisconsin and Arkansas. Other states, including Maryland and Massachusetts, which have long been Democratic strongholds and expanded the program, could see efforts to put limits on the expansion. In Illinois, the governor-elect previously stated that he would veto legislation expanding Medicaid but would also not rollback the program if elected. Instead, he has hinted at restructuring Medicaid in the state. In Pennsylvania, the newly elected official may replace the recently granted Medicaid waiver for a straightforward expansion.
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Throughout the month of October, HMS has explored the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act. Our The Affordable Care Act, One Year Later Series has investigated both the positive and negative aspects of the new health law. It’s been one year since the implementation. Overall, how has the ACA impacted healthcare in America? Our final post in the series will examine if the health law did, in fact, do what it was intended to do-which is reduce the number of Americans without health insurance, make health insurance more affordable, and make Americans healthier.
According to a recent New York Times article, the ACA has indeed reduced the number of Americans without health insurance. Although a perfect measurement of the number of people affected by the law is still difficult, most private sector surveys and government reports, including a Gallup poll, The Commonwealth Fund, and a CDC survey, reach the same basic estimates. The number of uninsured Americans has been reduced by 25 percent this year-that’s eight to 11 million people. More than half of that appear to be the newly insured who have signed up for Medicaid. Others are enrolled in private health plans through the new state insurance marketplaces. Three to four million people, mostly young adults, also became newly insured through ACA provisions that kicked in. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2017, approximately 26 million more Americans will become insured through the law (lower than previously estimated).
Another question we all have: Is the Affordable Care Act actually affordable? According to the Obama administration, eighty-five percent of those who signed up during enrollment period qualified for federal subsidies to help pay premiums. The subsidies are estimated to have lowered the cost by 76 percent on average. However, the law has also required insurers to provide more benefits to cover people with pre-existing conditions, subsequently causing premiums to rise for some of those who already had insurance. Others plans were canceled or were not eligible for subsidies. On a more positive note, it has also been reported that premiums may actually become lower in the next year due to spurred competition among insurers.
Lastly, has the ACA made us healthier? Most experts believe it’s still too early to know. How will the ACA fare in the long run? Only time will tell!
*You can start shopping for health insurance on Saturday, November 15. If you want coverage to start on January 1, you’ll have to buy it by December 15. If you miss the December 15 deadline, you can buy coverage, but it will not take effect until February 1 at the earliest.