Concord, NH – During Affordable Care Act open enrollment from November 1st to November 23rd, 11,148 Granite Staters signed up or re-enrolled in health care coverage – a jump of 3,297 people from the week before and just slightly behind the 11,434 Granite Staters who signed up during roughly the same time period last year. National enrollment to date on the HealthCare.gov platform also surged this past week, with 2,372,957 consumer renewing coverage or selecting plans for the first time, compared to 2,424,913 during the same time period last year.
“We are pleased to see a surge in open enrollment this past week, and urge Granite Staters who have not yet signed up for health insurance to make time to do so this week,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress Education Fund and project manager for Covering New Hampshire. “The December 15th deadline is fast approaching and Granite Staters who have not signed up for coverage by then will have to qualify for special exceptions to purchase health insurance the rest of the year. This holiday weekend is a great time to remind family and friends of the importance of signing up for health care coverage by the deadline.”
*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. Many individuals who purchase coverage through the Marketplace will also qualify for advanced premium tax credits, which will subsidize the cost of their monthly health care premiums, or may be eligible for other programs to help lower health care costs. Free 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 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.
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.