With enrollment starting next week on the Affordable Care Act exchange and confusion running high because of moves to repeal the law and end insurer payments, health care experts delivered a simple message Thursday:
“Obamacare” insurance is still available — and, in many cases, affordable.
Premiums for individual coverage at healthcare.gov will increase an average of 36 percent in Wisconsin next year. But tax credits received by about 81 percent of the 240,000 or so residents who buy such insurance are going up accordingly.
“It’s very important for people to log in to healthcare.gov, see what your plan choices are for 2018, and what they cost, and make the choice that’s best for you,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Virtually everywhere, the premium tax credit will absorb the rate increase for people who are eligible for tax credits,” Pollitz said.
“Window shopping” at healthcare.gov started Wednesday. The time period to sign up is shorter this year, Nov. 1-Dec. 15, and the federal government has decreased funding for navigators who can help people enroll.
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In Wisconsin, assistance is being scaled back but remains available, said Donna Friedsam, director of Covering Wisconsin. People wanting help can call 211 or go to www.coveringwi.org.
About 300,000 people in the state, or 5.3 percent, remain uninsured, said Friedsam, who is also health policy programs director for UW-Madison’s Population Health Institute. Though the uninsured rate is down from 9.1 percent in 2013, before most of the Affordable Care Act took effect, about 45,000 of the remaining uninsured are children, she said.
President Donald Trump said this month he would stop payments to insurers for cost-sharing discounts they must provide to low-income purchasers of Obamacare plans. But a bipartisan bill in Congress aims to restore the payments.
Much of the premium increases in Wisconsin and around the country next year stem from insurers raising rates because they assumed they wouldn’t get the cost-sharing payments.
Trump and Congress continue to talk about repealing Obamacare, but people who sign up for coverage can count on the plans lasting all of next year, Friedsam said.
“If you enroll in this open enrollment period, the plan will be available for the 2018 year,” she said. “Barring some extreme and completely unforeseeable circumstance, you will have a plan available.”