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Today is the first day of Open Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace. Consumers who need coverage should visit www.healthcare.gov to shop around and find an ACA plan that meets their needs. Unfortunately, due to actions taken by the Administration to undermine the Marketplace, there is not as much assistance available to help consumers.

Consumers must understand that short-term limited-duration plans and association health plans are not ACA plans. Such plans may be less expensive but they don’t offer comprehensive coverage or necessary care. A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that short-term plans “achieve 38 percent lower premiums by simply denying insurance altogether to people with pre-existing conditions, or refusing to cover such conditions for those offered a policy.” ACA-compliant plans, on the other hand, prohibit annual or lifetime limits on coverage, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and don’t discriminate based on age or gender. ACA-compliant plans also offer essential health benefits such as ambulatory services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity care, mental health and substance abuse services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services, and pediatric services.

Consumers should act quickly.  Not only has this year’s Open Enrollment period been shortened again – it ends on December 15th – it is also reported that www.healthcare.gov will be down for maintenance from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm on Sundays, except for the last Sunday. Further, people shopping for plans may have to fend for themselves again this year due to the severe cuts to navigator organizations and the outreach budget. As we did last year, the Center will be closely watching and will highlight attempts to sabotage the Marketplace and confuse consumers.

In the absence of enrollment assistance from the Administration, a few organizations have created useful tools and materials. We hope you find these useful.

 

November 1, 2018 – B. Belton

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