Remember Obamacare? Sign-up kicks off for enrollees

Thursday, October 31, 2019
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

ObamaCare Ahead signAnother enrollment period for Obamacare is about to get under way for people seeking health insurance coverage.

The 2020 open enrollment period runs from tomorrow, Nov. 1, to December 15 for people who want health insurance for the coming year.

Merrill Matthews, Ph.D. of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), says some consumers will have more to choose from this time around.

"Some companies have come back in," Matthews tells OneNewsNow. "The plans are increasingly becoming more like Medicaid plans, so the companies that are good at managing Medicaid have been good at staying in Obamacare and managing to make it work for them."

If you're shopping for a plan, be on the lookout again for narrow networks which are used to keep prices down.

“They go to a very small network of providers both doctors, clinics, and hospitals,” Matthews explains, “and because they're paying very low reimbursement rates on these plans, many major health care systems just simply do not take Obamacare plans." 

For example, Matthews says Texas-based MD Anderson in Houston, one of the major cancer centers in the country, will not take people who are in Obamacare plans.

"That is, people who go into the exchanges and buy an Obamacare plan," Matthews explains, “you cannot get care at MD Anderson Cancer Center."

Taxpayer subsidies will be available again for people of certain incomes, the idea being that it will help offset the cost of their insurance.

"About 87 percent of the people who enroll in the Obamacare exchanges get a subsidy and about two-thirds of them are paying less than $75 a month," says Matthews. "So, for those who move in there and get the subsidy, they don't get very good health insurance in part because you have access problems to hospitals and doctors."

In recent years, there was a tax penalty for people who went without some form of healthcare coverage. However, that penalty was zeroed out in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, meaning consumers who forgo coverage will not have to face a tax penalty in 2021 when filing their 2020 taxes.

As for health sharing ministries, a popular and growing alternative to Obamacare plans, those are still allowed by the Affordable Care Act. People interested in participating need to contact those ministries directly, as Healthcare.gov is not the place to sign up for a health-sharing ministry.

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans continue to get their coverage through an employer. Many, if not most, of those workers will sign up or re-enroll at their place of business.

"Obamacare had an impact on employer-based insurance," advises Matthews. "It required it to cover some things and so forth, so employer-based premiums have gone up significantly, but the employer market has not seen all the problems that we saw in the Obamacare exchanges where individuals go out and by their own policies."

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