Record low premiums and a stable uninsured rate mark open enrollment season

The federal government this week touted record low premiums for Affordable Care Act coverage and a stable uninsured rate.

The number of uninsured Americans stabilized in 2020 to between 8.6% and 9.7% of the population, about 28 to 31.6 million people, according to Reuters, citing information from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. About 30 million U.S. residents were uninsured in 2019, before the pandemic, the report said. Medicaid enrollment grew by 16%.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The numbers to show that safety net coverage worked as people lost their jobs and health insurance through their employers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Affairs.

“As a recent HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) report showed, increases in Medicaid and Marketplace enrollment help offset decreases in employer-sponsored coverage tied to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the HHS Office of Public Affairs said. “When health coverage is accessible and affordable, people sign up.”

The government released the figures as open enrollment on HealthCare.gov kicked off on Tuesday. Premiums are at record lows, according to HHS Office of Public Affairs. Due to American Rescue Plan funds, four out of five people can find a plan for $10 or less per month.

Marketplace open enrollment has been extended by 30 days, through January 15. However, consumers, including current enrollees, generally need to choose a plan by December 15 for full-year coverage to start on January 1. 

Plans selected after December 15 and by the January 15 open enrollment deadline will generally start February 1. Open enrollment for 2022 is also available in states operating their own marketplace platform.

Health equity is also a central component of HHS’s marketing and outreach efforts. HHS is concentrating its outreach on people who are most in need of care and who have historically lacked access. Additionally, marketing efforts will include content in many different languages. CMS has expanded its Spanish outreach and, for the first time, CMS will also conduct advertising in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Hindi.

To help communities with disproportionately high uninsured rates, the government has quadrupled the number of Navigators to 1,500 nationwide, to assist with the process of finding coverage. In total, there are over 5,500 assisters (including Navigators, certified application counselors, and others) and over 48,000 agents and brokers. 

CMS has also re-launched its “Champions for Coverage” program, which includes more than 2,100 local organizations that will provide outreach and education about how consumers can enroll.

THE LARGER TREND

Insurers have expanded their footprints in the ACA marketplace. There are more coverage options this season than last, with the average consumer being able to choose between six and seven insurance companies with plan options, HHS said.

ON THE RECORD

“Starting today, anyone who needs health insurance can find an affordable option at HealthCare.gov,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The Biden-Harris Administration is investing in the most robust open enrollment campaign — with record-low prices, more choices and 30 more days to pick a plan than last season. Health care should be a right and in reach for everyone. This open enrollment season, we will get closer to achieving that goal.”

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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