The seemingly imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance requirement, which could happen next week as part of the final passage of Republicans’ broad tax overhaul, has focused attention on Congress’ potential next moves on health care, including a bipartisan plan to shore up the insurance markets.
But that plan, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), is losing support as more health analysts say it could raise costs for many consumers. The bill would restore payments to insurers, allowing them to cut premiums, but in doing so it would reduce the tax credits that are pegged in part to the premium costs of certain plans.
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Pro-Obamacare lawmakers and activists are urging the Trump administration to allow a grace period for open enrollment so that people who have trouble using healthcare.gov are able to finish their applications.
The Trump administration has not said if it will allow a grace period, but an announcement about a final decision may not come until Friday.
During the 2015 and 2016 open enrollments, the Obama administration announced extensions on the same day as the deadline. The decision was made in 2015 to extend the deadline by two days because of “unprecedented demand,” and in 2016, the deadline was extended by four days as about 1 million people left their names at the call center to keep their place in line.
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Consumer advocates reported some glitches Monday in the final days for “Obamacare” sign-ups, although the Trump administration largely seemed to be keeping its promise of a smooth enrollment experience.
In Illinois, some consumers who successfully completed an application for financial assistance through HealthCare.gov got a message saying they would likely be eligible to buy a health plan, “but none are available to you in your area.”
That information was incorrect because every county in the nation currently has at least one health insurer offering plans under the Affordable Care Act for next year.
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Shopping to update your coverage on the health insurance marketplace may be annoying — didn’t you just do this last year? But letting the exchange automatically renew your coverage instead could be a big mistake. If you don’t like the plan you’re auto-enrolled in this year you may be stuck with it in 2018, unlike previous years when people could generally switch.
It’s all in the timing. This year, the open enrollment period, which started Nov. 1, will end a week from today, on Dec. 15 in most states. On Dec. 16, if you haven’t picked a new plan, the marketplace will generally re-enroll you in the one you’re in this year or another one with similar coverage.
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Health insurance a la carte?
As the Affordable Care Act open-enrollment season moves into its final weeks, some consumers looking for lower-cost alternatives are considering a patchwork approach to health insurance. The products may secure some basic protection but leave patients on the hook for high medical bills.
The idea involves mixing and matching several types of insurance products originally designed to cover the deductibles and other gaps in traditional coverage.
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Cyndee Weston can barely remember the last time she didn’t have to switch health plans during an Affordable Care Act sign-up season. By her count, she has been on five plans in five years.
Every fall, after she has spent months figuring out her insurance plan’s deductibles, doctor networks, list of covered drugs and other fine print, she receives notice that the policy will be canceled as of Dec. 31. Because her job doesn’t come with insurance, “it’s agonizing going through all the plans and trying to compare,” said Weston, 55, who has diabetes and a history of melanoma. “Every year it’s the same scenario: ‘We’re not going to renew your policy.’”
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House conservatives said they won’t support a short-term spending bill to fund the government if it contains provisions to “bail out” insurance companies.
A deal between moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would likely attach two bipartisan measures to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets to the spending bill in exchange for her vote on tax reform.
But conservatives say that wouldn’t pass the House.
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Nearly 2.8 million people signed up for ObamaCare plans during the first 25 days of open enrollment, but the rate of sign-ups has slowed, the Trump administration announced.
The fourth week resulted in just over 504,000 people selecting plans, compared with just under 800,000 people during the third week.
That number was also down from the 876,788 who signed up during week two, and the 601,462 who signed up during the first week of open enrollment.
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A headline this week in The Hill shocked me: “ObamaCare enrollment strong in third week of sign-ups.” The Hill is a serious, well-respected, non-partisan news source. But any reader taking this headline at face value would be seriously misled about what is really going on with Obamacare enrollments during this fifth open enrollment season.
The Hill’s reporter correctly notes that “the pace of sign-ups has exceeded last year: In the first 26 days of last year’s open enrollment period, 2.1 million people signed up compared to the 2.3 million people who signed up the first 18 days of this year’s period.”
Those figures imply that the daily rate of sign-ups this year is outpacing last year’s rate by 58% [originally reported as 28%: Update #2]. Surely that is evidence of strong enrollment, no?
The reason it is not is buried at the tail-end of the story where the reporter notes “the enrollment period ends Dec. 15, which is about half as much time as people had to sign up last year.”
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This month marks the start of the ACA’s fifth open enrollment period for individuals who purchase health plans on their own. The November Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds three in ten of the public saying they haven’t heard anything at all about the current open enrollment period. Three in ten Americans say they have heard “a little” while four in ten say they have heard either “some” (21 percent) or “a lot” (18 percent). About half of the public (45 percent) say they have heard less about open enrollment this year compared to previous years while four in ten (38 percent) say they have heard “about the same amount.
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