Dead­line looms for 2019 health in­sur­ance

The Signal - - News - By Tammy Murga Sig­nal Staff Writer

Santa Clar­i­tans who pur­chase from the fed­eral health in­sur­ance mar­ket­place have only weeks to lock in a plan. Those who miss the up­com­ing dead­line may not have cov­er­age come Jan­uary 2019.

For those seek­ing to en­roll in a plan, lo­cal ad­vo­cates say the time is now if res­i­dents want cov­er­age by New Year’s Day. En­roll­ment started on Nov. 1 and will close on Dec. 15 in most of the United States, but Cal­i­for­nia’s open en­roll­ment pe­riod won’t end un­til Jan. 15.

“With dead­lines ap­proach­ing, res­i­dents should be look­ing into all their op­tions now,” said Lorie Cortez-Ar­jon, a Sau­gus-based bro­ker with prod­uct ex­per­tise in health and den­tal in­sur­ance.

Dur­ing the first two weeks of open en­roll­ment, the num­ber of en­roll­ments was down by an es­ti­mated 20 per­cent when com­pared to last year, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased by the Cen­ters for Medi­care & Med­i­caid Ser­vices.

Pres­i­dent Trump signed a tax bill in late 2017 that re­peals the Af­ford­able Care Act’s tax penalty by wip­ing out the fines for not hav­ing health in­sur­ance. Though it’s not clear whether this has di­rectly im­pacted the re­duc­tion in en­roll­ments, some gov­ern­ment stud­ies es­ti­mate more peo­ple will drop their health in­sur­ance next year.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice, in a Novem­ber 2017 re­port, es­ti­mated that “the num­ber of peo­ple with health in­sur­ance would de­crease by 4 mil­lion in 2019 and 13 mil­lion in 2027.”

Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia pro­jected an en­roll­ment drop in 2019 rang­ing from 7 to 18 per­cent.

“While we know that the fi­nan­cial help of­fered through Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia is the big mo­ti­va­tor for many peo­ple to en­roll, with the penalty re­moved we do ex­pect some con­sumers to roll the dice and go without health cov­er­age,” Pe­ter Lee, Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said in a state­ment.

Cortez-Ar­jon said she thinks some may find the re­moval of the penalty a rea­son to hold off on shop­ping for cov­er­age, but she rec­om­mends avoid­ing that.

“It’s im­por­tant to have health in­sur­ance and see a doc­tor yearly,” she said. “We all have car in­sur­ance or cell phone cov­er­age. It’s even more im­por­tant to have health cov­er­age be­cause you never know when life can sur­prise you.”

For those still con­sid­er­ing skip­ping cov­er­age, Cortez-Ar­jon rec­om­mends check­ing if one could lower pre­mi­ums or cut from per­sonal ex­penses to help save for un­ex­pected med­i­cal costs.

Lee added that those tak­ing the step to find a health plan should “look at their op­tions and find out if they are el­i­gi­ble for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to help bring that cov­er­age within reach.”

One way to start is by ex­plor­ing op­tions and fi­nan­cial qual­i­fi­ca­tions and by seek­ing as­sis­tance from lo­cal, cer­ti­fied in­sur­ance agents through on­line en­roll­ment sites such as the Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia shop and com­pare, and the find help tools at cov­ or by call­ing 800-300-1506.

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