Marketplace opens for health insurance enrollment

The Health Insurance Marketplace opens today for its fourth open enrollment, offering every American the opportunity to sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through Jan. 31.

South Dakotans again will be able to choose between two providers offering plans through the exchanges – Avera Health Plans and Sanford Health Plan. Some 26,000 individuals in the state selected a marketplace plan during the 2016 open enrollment, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is expecting enrollment to grow again this year.

Although marketplace premiums are rising in South Dakota as they are across the rest of the country, those increases are being offset by federal tax credits so the out-of-pocket costs for most individuals and families will remain level.

For instance, the silver premium (before tax credit) for a 40-year-old Sioux Falls non-smoker making $30,000 per year is increasing 45 percent from $309 in 2016 to $448 in 2017. But with the government’s $101 tax credit jumping to $241, the cost to qualifying individuals and families will be unchanged at about $208 per month, according to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That study looked at premiums in each state’s largest city, and it also noted fewer consumer choices in many markets across the country due to the withdrawal of such large national insurers as UnitedHealth, Humana and Aetna. Nationwide, the average number of marketplace insurers in each state dropped from 5.4 companies in 2016 to 3.9 companies in 2017.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) hosted a special open enrollment webcast last Thursday with HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to discuss the upcoming enrollment period.

Burwell, speaking with AHA Chairman-elect Gene Woods, said that the vast majority of consumers make their decisions based on affordability, and 72 percent of people searching for marketplace policies can find a plan for $75 or less per month

Of the 10.7 million Americans who are uninsured and eligible for policies on the marketplace, 40 percent of those are between the ages of 18 and 34, Burwell said. HHS is trying to reach those millennials via social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitch and by making improvements to the online marketplace so it is mobile friendly.

The AHA is also appealing to millennials, debuting its new Live Awesome video (embedded below) targeting that sector and communicating the need for everyone to have health care coverage.