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Need Health Insurance? The Affordable Care Act Enrollment Deadline Is December 15


People who get their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act exchange have a few more weeks to sign up or make changes to their existing plans. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, nothing’s been repealed, nothing’s been replaced. The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land and open enrollment for buying health insurance for the year 2020 began on November first. It continues until December 15.

You may not have known that because the federal budget to publicize the health care exchange was cut by 90% last year.

“The only publicity that I’ve seen is as a result of being able to have conversations like this to get the word out” said Jodi Ray, the director of Florida Covering Kids and Families at the University of South Florida. She says that there is a much larger selection of health insurance companies and plans available this year on the healthcare.gov site. And the prices have stabilized. “We’re very fortunate, the Affordable Care Act has really been working in Florida. Our enrollment has continued to grow each year. Even last year we saw a small growth in enrollment. And what this ideally does is what the law intended which is to bring a lot more healthy people into the insurance risk pools. And as those risk pools grow, particularly with a lot of healthy people, it helps to lower the cost of the insurance premiums.  So we saw a slight decrease actually in Florida in our insurance premiums. So that’s really been a win for Floridians trying to get into coverage.”

In the past some local non-profit groups offered health insurance navigators to help people make the right health insurance choice for their family. However, like the publicity budget, the money for the navigators has largely dried up. But Jodi Ray says that even though there are far fewer navigators than before, you can still get help navigating the system when you go to the CoveringFlorida.org.

“We do have in-person navigators in about half the counties in the state. And then in the other half of the counties we’re still providing virtual and phone appointments as well.”

If you purchased your health insurance through the health care exchange in the past and you are satisfied with your present coverage, Ray says you should still go to the site and review the options available because there may be a better deal. “If you love the plan you’re on, you absolutely do not want to change anything, after December 15 (you) will be auto-enrolled either in that plan, or if that plan is no longer available, a plan similar. The reason why we always suggest folks, even those that love their plan take a look at the plan options, if the plan they’re on if not available, they may end up in another plan  and their current providers may oir may not be in those networks.”

Ray also cautions consumers to do their homework. The current administration now allows companies to sell plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act such as renewable short-term health plans. “Some of these plans you may find may not provide the same level of coverage you’re accustomed to with insurance. For example they don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions, they’re not required to charge men and women equal amounts, they may not cover certain services that the ACA (plans) are required to cover. So I think it’s always important to make sure that you’re comparing your apples to apples.”

In the first two weeks of open enrollment, over 463,000 Floridians have signed up for health insurance on the exchange, by far more than any other state. It has been that was since the Affordable Care Act became law and the health care exchange opened for business. Still, 13,000 of Floridians are uninsured, the third most of any state behind Texas and Oklahoma and tied with Georgia.