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Affordable Care Act enrollment ends Dec. 15

Aetna will not sell plans through Delaware's marketplace
November 7, 2017

Early holiday shoppers better make sure health insurance is on their lists, because this year's enrollment period ends less than two weeks before Christmas.

Open enrollment in Delaware's Health Insurance Marketplace has been cut in half this year, from 12 weeks to 6 weeks, for 2018 coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and ends Friday, Dec. 15.

In the First State, more than 27,000 Delawareans are enrolled through the marketplace, according to a press release from the state Department of Health and Social Services.

“For people who don’t have access to health insurance through an employer or another form of coverage, the Health Insurance Marketplace offers them an opportunity to get covered,” Gov. John Carney said in the release.

Last year more than half of enrollees signed up between Dec. 11 and Dec. 24, which is why state officials are alerting the public that the enrollment period is shorter this year.

The reduced enrollment period comes in the wake of a 25 percent average rate increase and Aetna's announcement it will not sell plans on Delaware's Health Insurance Marketplace.

More about Delaware's insurance marketplace

-81 percent of enrollees receive financial assistance for premiums, deductibles and co-pays
-Of 27,000 enrollees, 73 percent are re-enrollees and 27 percent are new enrollees
-The current average monthly premium is $569
-The average monthly tax credit is $338
-The penalty for not enrolling is 2.5 percent of annual household income, or $695 per person
-More than 10,000 Delawareans have received coverage through Medicaid's expansion
-For more, go to www.ChooseHealthDE.com

As for the premium increase in Delaware, state officials said federal tax credits are available for those who are not eligible for public programs such as Medicare or Medicaid.

“With the uncertainty in Washington, many people may not realize that they can still get coverage through the marketplace and that there’s still financial help available to help them pay for the plan they choose,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker.

Enrollees with Aetna plans for 2017 now must choose one of seven Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware plans, or they will automatically be enrolled in a similar Highmark plan, state officials said. Highmark is the only insurance company option after Aetna announced in the spring it was pulling out of Delaware's marketplace.

The Trump administration has been fighting to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Efforts have so far been unsuccessful, but they have caused some uncertainty in Washington relating to health insurance options for Americans.

“Despite partisan politics down in Washington, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, so don’t delay in getting covered,” Sen. Tom Carper said in a press release.

Carper learned about the difficulties of navigating health insurance options during a visit to La Red Health Center in Georgetown, which is facing a 70 percent reduction in federal funding if legislators fail to reauthorize appropriations for the Community Health Center Fund, which expired at the end of September.

Harriann Walker of Long Neck said if it wasn't for marketplace sign-up assistance provided by La Red, she would be in trouble.

“It's mind-boggling when you first have to approach this, and it's scary,” she said, noting that friends told her insurance could cost up to $1,000 a month, a good chunk of her limited retirement income.

Derling Salazar, the La Red assister who helped Walker, said he is the only marketplace assister he knows of in Sussex County. He said he gets an average of 12 calls a day from people asking for help to enroll in marketplace plans.

Brian Olson, La Red CEO, said there are not enough assisters like Salazar in Delaware, and access to guidance is a real challenge.

“I think it's a mistake to sit back and think this is all going away because of efforts to repeal it,” Olson said. “It's still the law.”

Go to healthcare.gov to review options for coverage in 2018. For more, go to www.ChooseHealthDE.com or call 800-318-2596.