Published: 10/29/2020 10:03:24 PM
Modified: 10/29/2020 10:03:18 PM
The Affordable Care Act has been around for close to a decade but this year’s open enrollment period, which starts Nov. 1, is in a class by itself.
For one thing, hanging over it is the possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down some or all of Obamacare now that it has an overwhelming conservative majority following the speedy appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. But even if that doesn’t happen, COVID-19’s economic fallout has removed employer-provided health insurance for those out of work, forcing an entirely new group of people to make decisions.
“I think this year is going to be different because thousands of people have lost their jobs and their coverage that came along with job. We’ve got a whole new batch of people who are going to be shopping for health insurance this year,” said Jeremy Smith, program director for the federally funded Navigator program in New Hampshire. The Navigator program provides free trained guides to help people make sense of the insurance marketplace, reachable through ACAnavigator.com.
Free help is also available by calling 1-877-211-NAVI or visiting localhelp.healthcare.gov.
In an online discussion Thursday, Smith drew parallels to the first few years of the ACA when he said there was a real “sense of urgency” to explain the new concept to people.
“This is going to be one of the most important open enrollments since the very beginning,” he said. “We don’t want people to sit back and think, I’ll just wait until I get my next job and get health insurance through my job. There is affordable coverage available through the marketplace.”
To enroll or learn more, check Healthcare.gov, the federal site, or the state Insurance Department website about ACA: www.nh.gov/insurance/consumers/mp_plans.htm
From the launch of Obamacare, which passed in 2010 and got started a couple of years later, it was realized that clear, objective information was necessary.
“Nothing we have been able to achieve makes health insurance completely easy. But you have options, the key is to get people to help you navigate it,” said Prof. Lucy Hodder of the UNH law school during Thursdays’ discussion.
About 104,000 New Hampshire residents have health insurance through the federal marketplace or Medicaid expansion, according to the presentation. While Medicaid allows enrollment year-round through the Granite Advantage program, enrollment for ACA insurance must take place between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15. The enrollment period used to be longer but President Donald Trump, a loud opponent of Obamacare, shrank it.
As has been the case for several years, three companies offer different levels of health insurance through the federal marketplace: Anthem, Harvard-Pilgrim, and Ambetter, offered through New Hampshire Healthy Families.
All of them have lowered their premiums this year by as much as 15%, although actual costs depend on a host of factors.
A number of subsidies are available. About three-fourths of New Hampshire residents who get insurance through the federal marketplace get some form of assistance which reduces their premium, according to the presentation.
Even people who have health insurance through the ACA already should go online and update their application, said Chris Nicolopoulos, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Insurance.
“Even if you like the plan, benefits and networks change from year to year,” he said. “The best way to determine monthly premiums is to update” your application.
ACA covers people with pre-existing conditions. It also covers lab tests to diagnose diseases; maternity and newborn care and dental and vision care for children. Parents can add their children up to age 26 on their plans.