By Cash Michaels Special to the NNPA
No, President Trump and the Republican Congress haven‘t “repealed and replaced” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health care law, yet.
Yes, Open Enrollment began Nov. 1, and there are significant changes than in previous years.
The enrollment period ends Dec. 15 for coverage through the 2018 Federal Health Insurance Exchange to begin Jan. 1, 2018. This is the shortest enrollment period (45 days) in recent years, so those without health care coverage should act immediately.
To qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums, those seeking to apply should go online to www.healthcare.gov. Most of those who get their health insurance coverage through the ACA are eligible for what are known as Advanced Premium Tax Subsidies (APT).
In some states, the average ACA health insurance premium is calculated at $662 per month, but after the APT subsidy tax credit kicks in, that comes down to just $129 per month, and in some cases, as low as $87 a month.
In many states last year, enrollment was down. Observers say one of the reasons for the decrease was uncertainty about the future of the ACA, especially after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, vowing to mothball the federal law, which he and the Republican Congress have repeatedly tried, but failed to do.
The Trump Administration has significantly cut the advertising budget to make more Americans aware of the ACA Open Enrollment period, in addition to shortening it to just 45 days, hoping to slowly phase it out in the future. It has also cut federal funding to nonprofit groups that traditionally helped low-income residents navigate the process of signing up and qualifying.
The White House has also discontinued the cost sharing reimbursements to insurance companies to help offset rising premiums to consumers. As a result, premiums across the nation have gone up anywhere from 15 to 21 percent, according to published reports.
Applicants are generally “…guaranteed to be insurable and are encouraged to sign up for health insurance….” through the ACA if they currently have ACA coverage, but want to change their plan for 2018; they don’t have health insurance through their employer or spouse’s employer; they don’t have government coverage (veterans, Medicaid or Medicare); or they’re older than 26 and are no longer on their parents’ policy.
Failure to have health insurance in 2018 will result in a sizable tax penalty, officials warn. For the past two years, that fee has been $695.00 per uninsured adult, and $347.00 per uninsured child, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.
Also keep in mind, per new rules that are now in effect, insurance companies can now deny you coverage if you owe them money on current coverage. You must settle any outstanding balances before you will be re-enrolled.
And you can also be denied the premium tax credit to lower your bill in 2018 if you’re behind on your taxes. To correct this, fill out the federal tax reconciliation IRS form 8962 to determine your 2016 taxable income.
For more information, call 1-800-318-2596, or go to www.healthcare.gov.
Locally, New Orleans Health Department is encouraging residents and small businesses to visit the Marketplace at healthcare.gov to directly compare and purchase private health insurance options.
The Health Department along with healthcare partners such as 504HealthNet, the regional consortium of community health centers, is actively involved in Marketplace outreach and enrollment with staff members across the city specially trained in enrollment assistance.
New Orleanians can also get help enrolling at area community health centers by contacting the Health Department via 311 or by visiting the Health Department’s website at www.nola.gov/marketplace.