Open Enrollment for 2019 Coverage Begins as Healthcare Looms Large Over Midterms

  

The open enrollment period to purchase individual health insurance coverage on the federal and state health insurance exchanges began on Wednesday, November 1st and runs through Saturday, December 15th. The open enrollment period is the only opportunity for individuals to enroll or re-enroll in an existing exchange plan for coverage for calendar year 2019. All consumers can access federal and state exchanges via www.Healthcare.gov; most consumers will purchase health insurance on the federal exchange, though consumers in these 12 states will purchase health insurance on their state of residence’s exchange. Consumers enrolled in a plan in 2018 who fail to update their information by December 15th will be automatically re-enrolled in the same or similar plan for 2019 (and must pay their premium for January to maintain coverage); consumers who were not enrolled in 2018 and do not sign up for a plan for 2019 will be locked out of exchange coverage until 2020.

Like last year, the administration has scaled back its efforts to encourage consumers to sign up for individual health insurance plans on the exchanges. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to spend $10 million on marketing and outreach, including email, text messaging and auto-dial messages, as well as targeting individuals who are uninsured – particularly young and healthy individuals. The amount that HHS budgeted for marketing and outreach matches the amount that it budgeted in 2017; however, this is roughly 10 percent of what was budgeted for previous open enrollment periods.

The administration has also added additional confusion regarding what constitutes an individual health insurance plan by promoting subpar health insurance coverage, such as association health plans and short-term, limited duration insurance. While these plans may offer low premiums, they do not provide the comprehensive coverage of pre-existing conditions required for plans sold on the exchanges and often come with high deductibles and out-of-pocket spending. The administration also ended cost-sharing reduction subsidies, though insurance plans on the exchanges are still required to provide cost-sharing reductions for individuals with household income at or below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and this policy change will not impact these consumers’ out-of-pocket spending. And in December 2017 Congress repealed the individual mandate penalty for individuals who failed to purchase individual health insurance coverage.

Despite these headwinds, 11.8 million Americans enrolled in coverage for 2018 on the federal and state exchanges, representing only a 3.7 percent decline from 2017. ANA has joined with other consumer- and provider-based groups to ensure consumers are aware of their options and are well-positioned to make the best choices for themselves and their families. It is essential that nurses ensure consumers are aware of the current insurance marketplace landscape, the need to select plans that offer meaningful coverage and that the open enrollment period is the only time they’ll be able to select plans from the marketplace exchanges.

ANA developed a toolkit of materials that can be customized and tailored to reach your nurses. ANA sent this toolkit to the presidents and executive directors of its Constituent and State Nursing Associations and to the presidents and executive staff leaders of its Organizational Affiliates; the toolkit includes the following:

  • Sample Social Media Messaging to encourage nurses and health care consumers to visit Healthcare.gov and either obtain coverage or re-enroll in a previously selected plan.
  • Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to open enrollment and the current political environment.
  • Talking Points to offer clear and concise explanations for why ANA is committed to promoting open enrollment and ensuring health care consumers are aware of all their health coverage options.

Health care stands to play a pivotal role in the midterm elections next Tuesday, November 6th. Public polling throughout 2018 has consistently shown health care to be the most important issue on voters’ minds, and the open enrollment period underscores how important health care is to individual consumers. ANA-PAC recently finalized its list of congressional endorsements for the 2018 election cycle, supporting candidates from both parties who are committed to advancing the nursing profession and ensuring that nurses have substantive input when lawmakers are crafting health policy. To find your polling place, please visit our #NursesVote Action Center and make certain that your voice is heard on this pivotal Election Day.

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Author: Gregory Craig

Analyst in the Health Policy Office of the American Nurses Association.

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