HHS launches en­roll­ment blitz for Jan. 1 sign-ups

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Bob Her­man

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is pulling out all the stops to en­cour­age peo­ple to shop around and sign up for health in­sur­ance be­fore the first ma­jor dead­line for the 2016 open-en­roll­ment pe­riod.

Con­sumers who want health cov­er­age to start Jan. 1 must sign up by Dec. 15. Many peo­ple fall into this cat­e­gory, es­pe­cially the thou­sands of mem­bers who had a health plan from one of the 12 shut­ter­ing co-ops.

Be­sides recit­ing the usual lines about low-cost pre­mi­ums and sub­si­dies, Health­Care.gov CEO Kevin Couni­han re­cently wrote a blog post that high­lighted the in­di­vid­ual man­date’s tax penalty for peo­ple who skip out on buy­ing cov­er­age.

HHS also an­nounced it is part­ner­ing with 38,000 phar­ma­cies across the coun­try, in­clud­ing CVS, Wal­greens and Rite Aid. Peo­ple who may be shop­ping for toi­letries or pick­ing up a prescription at those stores will be able to sign up for a health plan with the help of em­bed­ded “en­roll­ment as­sis­ters.”

More than 3 mil­lion peo­ple had se­lected a health plan on the state and fed­eral ex­changes as of Dec. 5. Charles Gaba, a blog­ger who tracks health in­sur­ance en­roll­ment and sup­ports much of the Af­ford­able Care Act, es­ti­mated that 11.3 mil­lion peo­ple will choose a plan by the third week of De­cem­ber. That num­ber in­cludes pas­sive users who will be au­to­mat­i­cally re­newed in their same health plan.

The most dif­fi­cult part will be ap­peal­ing to peo­ple af­ter this week’s dead­line. Those who wait un­til af­ter the new year to buy a plan “are not as con­cerned about hav­ing a slight gap in cov­er­age,” Gaba said. He expects there will be 12.2 mil­lion pay­ing ex­change mem­bers by the end of 2016, above HHS’ av­er­age es­ti­mate of about 10 mil­lion.


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