Individuals affected by hurricanes this year have four more days to sign up for Obamacare coverage in 2018.
The hurricanes resulted in a new special enrollment period for people who were affected or had to move because of the storms in several states, including Florida, Georgia and parts of Texas. This special enrollment ends Dec. 31, although federal officials have said that they may consider extending it.
To qualify, consumers must call the federal Marketplace Call Center at 800-318-2596 and say that they’ve been affected by the hurricanes. No verifying documents are required.
Despite the uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act, experts say that people who sign up for health insurance through the federal marketplace this year will have coverage in 2018.
Even though the open enrollment period has ended, local navigators are available year-round to help consumers during the special enrollment periods, said Anne Packham, the area’s lead navigator and marketplace project director for the Primary Access Care Network.
She said consumers can also conference in the navigators when calling the federal call center during special enrollment.
There’s yet another special enrollment period this year, for individuals whose 2017 coverage was discontinued because their carrier no longer offered a plan in the federal marketplace. Those consumers have until March 1, 2018, to choose a different health plan.
Consumers can also terminate their Obamacare coverage because of a hardship from the hurricane and may be exempted from 2018 tax penalties, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The current minimum penalty for people who qualify but don’t sign up for health insurance is $695.
But with the passage of the GOP Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that individual mandate is set to repeal by 2019, further making the future of the federal marketplace unclear.
Opponents worry that repealing the individual mandate will destabilize the health insurance market, because young, healthy consumers are less likely to obtain coverage, leaving the insurance pools with a heavier pool of sick people whose care is costly. This in turn will result in more people without health insurance and higher premiums for individuals who don’t qualify for subsidies.
“We and numerous others have predicted the devastating damage this GOP tax bill will cause, and we will be tracking its disturbing fallout closely,” said Frederick Isasi, executive director of the national nonprofit FamiliesUSA. “Over the next few years, as people experience rising health insurance premiums and a growing number of counties without insurers offering individual market plans, Americans must remember who took their health insurance away.”
But proponents of the tax bill, such as U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland say that the repeal of individual mandate’s tax penalty gives “families … much-needed relief and flexibility to buy the health care that’s right for them if they choose,” he said in a news release.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the repeal could save the government $318 billion over 10 years.
Despite Republicans’ efforts to repeal the health law, studies show that since its implementation in 2013, the uninsured rate has dropped nationwide.
In Florida, the adult uninsured rate fell between 2013 and 2016 from 29 percent to 18 percent, according to a recent study by The Commonwealth Fund.
Meanwhile, the marketplace enrollment numbers remained strong this year.
Nearly 8.8 million Americans signed up for health insurance during the latest enrollment period, slightly fewer than last year’s total of 9.2 million, even though the Trump Administration cut the enrollment period in half and reduced the marketing and navigators’ budgets.
So far Florida is leading the nation in enrollment numbers, with 1.7 million enrollees, followed by Texas, with 1.1 million enrollees.
Still, the state ranks 41st in the nation in overall access to care, according to The Commonwealth Fund.
– CoveringCFL.net or 877-564-5031
– Covering Florida: 877-813-9115 or coveringflorida.org
– Federal Marketplace Call Center: 800-318-2596
– Medicare: 800-MEDICARE
– New to health insurance? Here’s how to pay your premium and activate your coverage: https://www.healthcare.gov/blog/pay-premium-activate-health-coverage/
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