By Freddie Allen
Editor-In-Chief, NNPA Newswire
As President Donald Trump continues to sow confusion about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows that, although some of his tactics are working, many consumers still plan on signing up for healthcare during the open enrollment period.
The ACA open enrollment period started on November 1 and will end December 15 in most states and despite its critics, the law has effectively reduced the uninsured rate for Blacks; healthcare advocates have said that access to preventive care provided by the ACA could also limit the effects of healthcare disparities, like infant mortality rates and deaths from breast cancer among Black women.
Even though the ACA, also known as Obamacare, provided healthcare to millions of Americans—some of them Trump supporters—the current president has worked to cripple the law in tweets and actions.
Deep cuts to funding for advertising about the ACA are having expected results.
In previous years, television ads played a key role in educating people about open enrollment and the ins and outs of the ACA. Trump cut that advertising budget to the bone.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll, “few of those most likely to consider marketplace coverage report hearing or seeing any ads providing information about how to get insurance under the health care law.”
Less than 20 percent of the uninsured and just 12 percent of market enrollees said that they saw ads in the past 30 days that provided information about how to get insurance.
The poll also reported that just 5 percent of the uninsured and 25 percent of the marketplace enrollees were aware of the month when open enrollment ends in their state.
Despite White House efforts to discourage Americans from signing up for healthcare and the House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) claims that people would choose not buy Obamacare, if the government didn’t force them, 90 percent of marketplace enrollees said that they would continue to buy their own insurance, even if the government stopped enforcing the individual mandate.
Most marketplace enrollees like their health insurance under the ACA.
The KFF poll revealed that 70 percent of current marketplace enrollees are satisfied with their insurance choices.
“The vast majority (85 percent) of marketplace enrollees also say they plan to sign up for health insurance during the 2018 open enrollment period, and most of them (54 percent of the total marketplace enrollees) prefer to renew their current plan if it is available next year,” according to the KFF poll.
Most enrollees will also get help paying for healthcare through the ACA.
“Insurers are still required by law to provide reduced deductibles and co-pays for low-income marketplace enrollees,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives and co-executive director of the Foundation’s Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance. “Premiums are increasing, but consumers will also get more help.”
Even though consumers will get help paying for health insurance, this isn’t President Obama’s open enrollment; many things have changed so it’s important to start reviewing plans now.
Don’t just “auto-renew” your health insurance plan. Study your options carefully.
In previous years, the healthcare marketplace auto-renewed consumers for the upcoming coverage year. According to the KFF poll, almost 25 percent of marketplace enrollees were auto-renewed for their same plan or auto-reassigned to similar plans in 2016 for the 2017 coverage year.
But experts have said that the auto-renewal feature may not identify the subsidies that you’re eligible for accurately and when it comes to prescriptions or other life-saving services that you need, you’ll want to make sure that any similar plan fits your needs.
Remember, it’s best to enroll early; don’t wait until the last minute.
During previous enrollment periods, there has been a surge of interest as the deadline nears; that increased activity slowed down the responsiveness of HealthCare.gov and created longer wait times for the marketplace call center, said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Log-in to HealthCare.gov, update your application for financial assistance, review your plan choices and what they cost, and select a plan for 2018,” said Pollitz. “If you want the same plan, select the same plan.”
Whether you choose the same health insurance plan or a new one, don’t wait until the last minute to make your decision. This year, thanks to Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, if you have questions about plans in the final hours of the enrollment period, you might just be on your own.