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 And in December 2017 Congress repealed the individual mandate penalty for individuals who failed to purchase individual health insurance coverage.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.

Health Care Takes Center Stage as #NursesVote in Midterm Elections

  

Two weeks ahead of Election Day, health care continues to dominate campaign-related headlines and the attention of voters across the country, with one recent poll finding that 71% of Americans describe health care as “very important” in helping them decide how they’ll vote this year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently gave an interview in which he described his caucus’s failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a major “disappointment,” and indicated that they would make another attempt to do so should Republicans hold their majority in the Senate (it’s likely the House would follow suit if it, too, remained under Republican control).

It was unclear if McConnell’s comment that he and his colleagues are “not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working” meant that they would be willing to reconsider legislative steps to stabilize the individual insurance marketplace, an idea that is more likely to garner bipartisan support. Previous Senate attempts to repeal and replace the ACA have garnered support from most – but not all – Republicans.

The majority leader also claimed that “Entitlements are the long-term drivers of the debt,” referring to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Passing legislation that reduces spending on such programs would be politically treacherous and is not a talking point that Republican candidates in more moderate districts and states seem eager to include in their campaign messaging.

In House races, protections for patients with pre-existing conditions have taken on increased importance, with candidates from both sides of the aisle insisting to voters that they consider those protections sacred. This is a tougher sell for Republicans who voted in favor of the American Health Care Act, which would have hobbled those protections as implemented by the ACA.

Many Democratic candidates, in addition to supporting ACA stabilization, are also calling for a system that helps even more uninsured Americans get access to health coverage. While only some have embraced a version of a single-payer system (most commonly referred to as Medicare for All), President Trump recently published an opinion piece in USA Today in which he claimed that such a system “would mean the end of choice for seniors over their own health care decisions.” The piece was widely criticized for containing factual errors, and polls continue to find that a majority of voters – including Republicans – support a single-payer system in some form.

As congressional campaigns race to the finish line, this year’s Open Enrollment period kicks off on November 1, with the Trump administration continuing to approve waivers to states that want  their residents health coverage that falls short of the requirements implemented by the ACA. While not tied to a specific piece of federal legislation, these efforts would be more sharply questioned by a Democratic-controlled House or Senate, with the possibility of legislation being passed that aims to stop them. This dynamic also underscores the importance of supporting candidates at the state level who want to ensure that patients have access to meaningful, comprehensive health insurance.

As you review the issues and the candidates running in your congressional district and state, 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, request an absentee ballot, or find out how to vote early, please visit our #NursesVote Action Center and make certain that your voice is heard on this pivotal Election Day.

When #NursesVote, Washington Changes

  

On Election Day, the old saying couldn’t be more apt: Decisions are made by those who show up. With healthcare reform and other nursing-related issues so prominent this campaign season, it’s more important than ever that Registered Nurses across the country show up on November 6 to ensure their voices are heard and their ballots are counted.

The fact that one in every 45 registered voters is a nurse underscores the impact of our collective voice. During the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) Year of Advocacy, we are working to make it as easy as possible for busy RNs to get out and vote this fall, in an effort to guarantee that elected officials understand that impact firsthand.

At the center of ANA’s 2018 Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts is our new #NursesVote Action Center. There you can find everything you need to have your vote count on Election Day, as well as instructions on how to update your information if your voter registration has lapsed.

Not sure if you’re registered? Our Action Center can help there, too, as well as provide information on how to find where your polling place is located, or vote early to accommodate your schedule on November 6. After you enter some basic information, the Action Center will do the rest to equip you to fulfill your civic duty in this dynamic campaign season.

When nurses vote, lawmakers in Washington, DC, and in statehouses across the country listen. Visit ANA’s #NursesVote Action Center today and help us make this the most meaningful election for nurses yet.