What You Need To Know About The Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period


Understanding The ACA Enrollment Period And The Changes To Insurance Premiums

November 15th marks the beginning of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period - for the three months that follow, you can enroll for a qualified healthcare plan in the marketplace. Of course, there are a couple exceptions that could allow you to enroll at a different time, but these exceptions encompass major life events such as the birth of a child, marriage, a move to a different state, or a significant change in income. For most of the population, the upcoming period is the only time to enroll, so the following months will become crucial for uninsured Americans. It’s also important to point out that this year, the open enrollment period is only half as long as last year’s - three months as compared to six. With the quickly approaching window, along with the shortened period for enrollment, it’s crucial to know not only about the process of enrollment, but also about the changes we’ll see in the system this year. These changes could affect and offer new benefits even for those who are already enrolled. Also, as this is the second year with an open enrollment period, there are a lot of questions about how the insurance premiums will change from last year, and these changes are getting a lot of attention because they’re a valuable forecast for how well the market is working. To answer all these questions, here’s a short guide on what you need to know about ACA open enrollment this year, and what the statistics on insurance premiums are saying about the program overall. SEE ALSO: Everything You Need To Know About The Health Insurance Exchange

Upcoming Changes To Insurance Premiums

The changes in insurance premiums have been heavily scrutinized as information becomes more available - as this is only the second year for ACA open enrollment, the changes in premiums will be a good indicator for how the system is running, and whether it’s adequately stabilizing. Though not all states have announced official insurance premium rates, data collected from 41 states can offer a comprehensive understanding of the upcoming changes. Among the seven states that have officially announced the new premium, the average premium increase is about 3.5%. The total average increase among reporting states is 6.0%, and the average premium is $381. Of course, these numbers don’t always give an accurate understanding of just how much premium increases vary. For example, in Colorado, rate changes range from a 22% decrease to a 35% increase. These numbers are pretty encouraging: the high variance means that there are a lot of different options offered by insurers, but the low average premium increase is comparable to that seen in the employer-based insurance market, and indicates that the ACA health insurance market is beginning to stabilize. Experts are also pointing out that these numbers indicate that different insurance companies are beginning to compete more effectively this year, a positive sign for those shopping around on the market. SEE ALSO: Do You Really Need Health Insurance?

How To Take Advantage Of The ACA And The Open Enrollment Period

While the emerging numbers and the statistics on insurance premiums are offering a pretty optimistic look at the future of the ACA and the outcome of this year’s enrollment period, all of this optimism could be unfounded because survey results also show a distinct lack of knowledge about potential benefits. A survey released in mid-October by the Kaiser Family Foundation highlights the public’s general lack of knowledge about the system - it was discovered that only 11% of the surveyed uninsured population knew about the approaching enrollment period. Additionally, most survey participants reported knowing nothing or very little about the ACA, how it worked, and what it offered. According to the survey, most of these uninsured participants expressed interest in the program, and just weren’t aware of the facts and potential benefits. This expressed lack of knowledge about ACA systems has led many cities and counties to organize events and informational sessions to assist anyone who needs help enrolling or understanding what the open enrollment period offers. While these can be valuable, the ACA website and Healthcare.gov provide comprehensive overviews of everything you need to know about open enrollment and the insurance market. The website includes some useful links, such as a guide to the marketplace and a checklist to go over to ensure you’re ready for November 15th. Experts also emphasized that even for those who are already insured and planning on just renewing their coverage, it could be useful to take another look at the available options. The greater competition and higher variety of insurers this year means that some people could be switching to a more compatible, affordable plan than the one they had last year.
Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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