As December 15th Deadline for ACA Open Enrollment Nears, Latest CMS Numbers Show New Hampshire Strong But Impacted By Federal Cuts to ACA Navigators, Publicity Outreach
CONCORD, NH – As the December 15th deadline for Affordable Care Act open enrollment nears, the latest numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show New Hampshire with strong enrollment, but still being impacted by massive federal cuts to ACA navigators and publicity outreach.
During Affordable Care Act open enrollment from November 1 to December 7, 18,621Granite Staters signed up or re-enrolled in health care coverage. Last year, 20,140 Granite Staters signed up during the same time period. National enrollment to date on the HealthCare.gov platform is at 3,882,671, compared to 4,132,432 last year. National enrollment is pacing about 250,000 fewer health care consumers this year, with New Hampshire down around 1,500 sign-ups.
New Hampshire health care consumer and advocacy groups are pushing hard to bolster Affordable Care Act Marketplace enrollment before the upcoming deadline on Saturday, December 15th.
“Having health insurance means being able to go to the doctor when you are sick or accessing preventive care to address a health issue before it becomes something more serious,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress Education Fund and project manager for Covering New Hampshire. “Families that sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act may qualify for financial assistance, and can have peace of mind throughout the year that they are purchasing a quality insurance plan that will be there for them when they most need it. All health insurance plans sold in the Marketplace must cover the ten essential health benefits, such as preventive and wellness services, prescription drug coverage, emergency care, and mental health and substance use disorder treatment. It is important that people read the details for any health insurance plan purchased outside the Marketplace, because it does not necessarily have to cover pre-existing conditions or these essential health benefits.”
Covering New Hampshire, run by Granite State Progress Education Fund and the NH Health Care Coalition, is working with local health care providers and advocacy groups to fill the gaps and bolster enrollment in New Hampshire despite the cuts to open enrollment publicity and assistance. The program is supported in part by a generous grant from the NH Charitable Foundation.
How to Enroll in Health Insurance
People who already have a plan and need to re-enroll are encouraged to double-check the network and prescription drug coverage for any changes, and to update their information in case they qualify for any additional cost-savings. New Hampshire residents can compare plans and apply for health insurance at www.healthcare.gov. Last year, 7 out of 10 Granite Staters qualified for financial assistance to help afford health insurance. Free enrollment help is available by calling (603)-931-3858 or toll free at 1-877-211-NAVI.
Health Consumer Fraud Alert
Advocates warn that people need to read the details for any health insurance plan purchased outside the Marketplace, because those plans do not necessarily have to cover pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits. All health insurance plans sold in the Marketplace must cover pre-existing conditions and the ten essential health benefits, such as preventive and wellness services, prescription drug coverage, emergency care, and mental health and substance use disorder treatment. If it is an inexpensive individual plan not sold by one of the approved companies in New Hampshire—Anthem, Ambetter or Harvard Pilgrim – there may be coverage exclusions and waiting periods, and consumers should check their policy documents before enrollment.
Background on Cuts to Consumer Outreach & Assistance
New Hampshire health care consumer and advocacy groups are pushing hard to bolster Affordable Care Act Marketplace enrollment before the December 15th deadline. Under the Trump Administration, ACA enrollment publicity and outreach to consumers to inform them about available coverage and financial assistance has been severely cut. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allocated $63 million nationwide in 2016 for consumer assistance and awareness in the 34 states, including New Hampshire, where the marketplace is facilitated by the federal government. The amount dropped to $36 million in 2017, and $10 million in 2018 and this year – a drop of around 84 percent from its 2016 level. In New Hampshire specifically, the state had $600,000 in navigator funding in 2016 and $456,214 in 2017, but only $100,000 available in 2018 and this year. As a result, no organization applied for the funding last year and New Hampshire did not have a navigator. This year, First Choice Services has stepped forward to cover the activities in New Hampshire, Iowa, and Montana, the three states without navigators last year. Additionally, the time period to sign up dropped from 12 weeks under the Obama Administration to 6 weeks under the Trump Administration.