The Affordable Care Act Deadline to Sign Up for Health Insurance in The Private Marketplace Extended

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has moved the deadline back from December 15 to December 23 for signing up for health insurance in the private marketplace for coverage beginning on January 1, 2014.  The open enrollment period continues through March 31, 2014.  HHS continues to work on improving the performance of the healthcare.gov website used to enroll in the plans in the states where the federal government established the marketplace.

Affordable Care Act Deadlines Clarified

The Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that individuals who purchase health insurance before March 31, 2014 will not face the tax penalty for being uninsured for three consecutive months.  March 31, 2014 is the end of the open enrollment period.  Originally it was assumed that insurance would have to be purchased by February 15th so that coverage could begin on April 1.  Under that scenario anyone who purchased coverage after February 15 would be uninsured for three consecutive months (January, February and March) and would face penalties.  If individuals want insurance to begin on January 1, 2014, they must purchase insurance by December 15, 2013.

The Administration continues to experience difficulties with the website (www.healthcare.gov) that individuals use to purchase health insurance in the states that chose to have the federal government run the marketplaces.  The technical problems are frustrating people trying to purchase insurance and giving opponents of the law a new target to criticize.  Key Congressional Committees are planning a series of hearings about the problems.  The Administration has pledged to have the website fixed by the end of November. Individuals can use the toll free number 1-800-318-2596 to enroll or to find enrollment help in their community.

Affordable Care Act’s Marketplaces Begin Enrolling October 1

The new health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will begin enrolling people on October 1st. People who do not have health insurance can purchase private health insurance in the marketplaces. The initial open enrollment is for six months, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2014 for those who sign up in time. When individuals apply they will learn whether they qualify for subsidies to make the policies more affordable. Low and moderate income people with incomes less than 400% of the federal poverty level ($45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four) are eligible for premium tax credits. For people who have questions, the marketplace consumer call center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-318-2596 (hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD can dial 1-855-889-4325), with translation services available in 150 languages. Visit HealthCare.gov or CuidadodeSalud.gov to learn more or participate in a live chat with a trained customer service provider. Individuals will still be able to enroll in the marketplaces even if the federal government shuts down.

The ACA also created a new health insurance marketplace for small businesses looking to provide health insurance coverage (known as the SHOP exchange). The Administration announced last week that that there would be a delay in the operation of the online enrollment for the federally run SHOP exchanges. Small businesses will still be able to submit a paper application on Oct. 1 – they just won’t be able to enroll online. States that are running their own marketplaces are not affected by this delay. The SHOP exchanges are open year-round and do not have a time limited enrollment period.

The House Votes Again to Repeal an Affordable Care Act Provision

On September 12, 2013, the House of Representatives voted to pass legislation prohibiting the Obama administration from providing subsidies to low and moderate income people enrolled in the health insurance marketplace until the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General reviews efforts to ensure the accuracy of the income verification process. Opponents of the law supported this bill because of concerns that not enough has been done to ensure that people accurately report their income in order to qualify for subsidies. The bill, like other efforts to partially or fully repeal the law, is unlikely to move in the Senate. The Administration has threatened to veto the bill, calling it unnecessary as HHS has a verification process in place. The subsidies are critical to helping ensure that health care is affordable for low and moderate income people. Enrollment in the health insurance marketplaces begins October 1, 2013.

Webinar on Preparing People with Disabilities for the Health Insurance Marketplaces scheduled for August 7

Please join the Friends of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Disabilities (NCBDDD) for an important webinar, “Preparing People with Disabilities for the Health Insurance Marketplaces: What do you know? What do you need to know?” The one hour webinar will take place on August 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).   The learning objectives are to enable attendees to: 1) explain recent changes in the ACA that affect people with disabilities; 2) describe how the health insurance marketplaces will work; and 3) incorporate health advocacy tips for organizations that serve people with disabilities in the health marketplaces (exchanges) process and other health/ACA-related programs. You are encouraged to submit questions in advance to tchristensen@aucd.org or tweet your question using the hash tag #FriendsNCBDDD. You can preview all of the questions and watch the archived webinar after the event at http://www.friendsofncbddd.org. Please register and feel to add your organization’s logo to this flyer to share with your networks.

Health Insurance Marketplaces Likely to Offer More Choices for Individuals

The Obama administration is reporting that people purchasing insurance in the individual market will have more insurance options when the private health insurance marketplaces begin operating later this year. Consumers in every state will have access to a marketplace, but each state can choose how it will operate. In 2014, 17 states (including the District of Columbia), will fully run their own marketplace. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will fully run a marketplace in 19 states. In 15 states, HHS will work with the state to run a Marketplace.

HHS reports that 120 insurance companies have applied to offer insurance in the federally run marketplaces.  There are also 200 applications for proposed plans to operate in multiple states.  In reviewing the current health insurance landscape, the administration found that in 29 states more than 50% of all people with individual insurance are covered by one insurer.   It is hoped that the increased competition will help keep with the costs down.  HHS will be releasing premium information in September, once negotiations with the plans are completed.  The marketplaces will begin enrolling people in October with coverage beginning in January, 2014.

Health Insurance Marketplaces and Medicaid Expansion

Are you looking for more information about what states have decided to do about expanding Medicaid or defaulting to the federal government to run their health insurance marketplaces? The Kaiser Family Foundation has a very helpful interactive tool to give you up to date information about what states are doing with this issue.  The health insurance marketplaces will begin enrolling individuals who need health insurance and assisting small businesses who want to purchase insurance for their employees in October, 2013 though coverage will not begin until January 1, 2014.  Each state must also make a decision about whether to expand Medicaid to 133% of poverty ($15,282 for an individual in 2013).  The federal government will pay 100% of the costs for the expansion for newly eligible people for the first 3 years.