The nation’s health insurance marketplace is scheduled to open again soon, and officials are promising fewer headaches than last year’s troubled health insurance sign-up period.
Beginning Nov. 15, the Healthcare.gov insurance marketplace will reopen, prompting millions of Americans to either renew coverage or sign up for health insurance for the first time.
Nearly 1 million Floridians signed up for coverage last year, though more than 2.5 million Floridians are still uninsured and eligible for coverage, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In preparation, on Oct. 15, federal health officials sent notices to all 7.3 million consumers insured through the exchange to remind them that they will need to renew their policies for 2015.
Officials are hopeful the process will go more smoothly this year, because both consumers and navigators have experienced open enrollment once before. Unlike last year, when it lasted six months, the enrollment period in 2014 is only scheduled for three months.
Insured residents using health exchange plans should expect changes to their coverage, because many insurers have adjusted their offerings. While specific plan and rate changes for 2015 will not be released until early November, navigators are already getting calls from clients whose plans have been cancelled. Even people who are happy with their health plans and want to renew them should check for rate changes. If plan prices have changed, consumers may be eligible for additional subsidies from the federal government or might be able to change plans to get similar coverage for a lower cost.
Experts believe consumers this year will be focused more on coverage than price.
Also new this year will be health insurance subsidies and penalties, which will be levied through federal tax returns. For people who were eligible but did not sign up for insurance during the 2013-2014 open enrollment period, the penalty is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or one percent of yearly household income, whichever is higher. If people elect to remain uninsured after Feb. 15, penalties will climb to $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, or two percent of yearly household income, whichever is higher.
Still, questions and uncertainty persist. One large group left out of the insurance conversation are the 850,000 Floridians who earn too much for Medicaid coverage but not enough to qualify for insurance subsidies.
Florida has, to date, rejected the Affordable Care Act’s directive to expand Medicaid insurance to people earning between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $11,490 to $13,075 for a single adult and $23,550 to $26,799 for a family of four.
The uninsured can still receive health care through county health departments and other community health groups, however. For those 2.5 million of Floridians who are eligible to sign up for insurance, advocates say the time is now.
“Last year, we saw a large chunk of people waiting until the last month to enroll,” said Nick Duran, Florida director for Enroll America, an insurance sign-up advocacy group.
“People always tend to wait as long as they can before they pull out their wallet, but they should get a jump start and get their coverage in place now to avoid the surge in sign-ups that will happen in February.”