Those who have to purchase health insurance already know what a confusing process it can be. Deductibles, co-payments, out-of-pocket maximums. Platinum, gold, silver, bronze. So many choices. So many plans. So much industry terminology.
And this year, the time allowed to enroll in a plan is cut in half in most states from three months to six weeks. But, and this is a huge BUT, not in California.
California, which operates its own exchange at www.coveredca.com, is sticking to the original enrollment period of 90 days. This year, open enrollment begins across the U.S. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
In California, open enrollment will continue through January 31, 2018. (In most states, the open enrollment period has been slashed and will end Friday, Dec. 15.)
California and several other states will exempt themselves this year from a new Trump administration rule that cuts in half the amount of time consumers have to buy individual health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. In California, lawmakers are contemplating legislation that would circumvent the rule in future years, too.
The Trump administration’s rule gives people shopping for 2018 coverage on the federal exchange 45 days to sign up, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. But in California and some of the other states that run their own exchanges — Colorado, Minnesota, Washington and Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia — consumers purchasing insurance for themselves this year will have extra time to make decisions.
In Colorado, for example, the sign-up period is from Nov. 1 to Jan. 12. In Minnesota, it will start Nov. 1 and run through Jan. 14. In Washington state, it is Nov. 1 through Jan. 15. Consumers shopping for coverage in California’s exchange, Covered California, will still have the full three months they’ve had in recent years, starting on Nov. 1 and ending Jan. 31. Californians shopping for individual market plans outside the exchange will have those same three months to make up their minds.
After months of squabbling over the ACA law by legislators, consumers are more confused than ever about when, where, how — and if — they can get coverage. This makes an already baffling process even more distressing, and it makes many who would benefit the most from coverage uncertain about signing up.
But although the Trump administration has cut $116 million in funds for advertising, outreach, and assistance programs, the Affordable Care Act is still available to those more than 10 million people who don’t receive health coverage through their employer or government programs.
In addition for 2018, certain federal funds that have supported Covered California enrollees’ access to affordable care in recent years are now in jeopardy, but it will not affect the quality of the health insurance consumers receive through Covered California. In 2018, a cost-sharing reduction surcharge will be added to rates for consumers with Silver plans.
Basically, this means that the price some of these consumers pay for their health insurance will be raised, most will not see a significant change in the net cost of their monthly premium because their financial help will increase as well.
Because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, the Covered California online exchange enables individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance at federally subsidized rates. This year, dental and vision plans are also offered for California customers.
The ACA was signed into law in 2010, creating the marketplaces where people can buy individual or small business plans and income-qualified people can receive subsidies that lower the cost of co-payments and premiums.
In California, log onto www.coveredca.com to review health insurance plans and to sign up to receive health insurance. Those in need of assistance to find their way through this maze, help is available from Family HealthCare Network (call 559-793-3505) or any licensed and ACA-certified insurance broker.