Affordable Care Act marketplace gets ready for 4th open enrollment period

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Affordable Care Act marketplace gets ready for 4th open enrollment period

24 Oct, 2016

As Obama gears up to finish his presidency, his trademark healthcare policy, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), gets ready to begin its annual marketplace open enrollment period on Tuesday, November 1. In its fourth year, the current ACA marketplace faces challenges that have culminated over the past four years.

The marketplace allows any U.S. citizen to sign up for health insurance, despite age or health condition. The marketplace’s effectiveness highly depends on a high ratio between healthy patients to diseased patients enrolled in the marketplace; therefore, enrollment numbers greatly matter.

The Obama administration says that it expects 13.8 million people to sign up for coverage during this annual open enrollment period, a 9% increase from the year before. If this increase occurs, it would indicate that the marketplace is steadier than critics have predicted.

Insurance premium rates have gone up significantly for this enrollment season, but federal officials predict that enrollment will not be affected because subsidies will guard most consumers from these rate increases. Additionally, stricter tax penalties may encourage those uninsured to sign-up. Federal officials also say that they have focused their marketing strategy on healthy, young people – a crucial population within those insured under the marketplace.

Another issue facing the marketplace is retaining those who sign up for plans during the enrollment period. A person who signs up for a plan during the enrollment period will not necessarily keep the plan throughout the entire year. In the last enrollment period, which ended January 31, 2016, 17% of people had dropped their insurance by June 2016. A person may use the plan during a period of sickness and the drop it once health is attained. Or, a person may sign up for a plan and then not have the means to pay for it later in the year.

According to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services, most people shopping on the marketplace will find a plan for $75 or less a month.
Of the 13.8 million expected to sign up during this next enrollment period, 3.5 million are uninsured, 9.2 million are returning marketplace customers, and 1.1 million have had unsubsidized health insurance outside of the exchange.

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