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Despite Trump, ACA open enrollment has begun

CASH MICHAELS, Special to the NNPA | 11/2/2017, 3:14 p.m.
No, President Trump and the Republican Congress haven’t “repealed and replaced” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the federal health care ...
Nursing/health freestockphotos.biz

No, President Trump and the Republican Congress haven’t “repealed and replaced” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law, yet. But yes, as open enrollment began Nov. 1, there are significant changes from previous years.

The enrollment period ends on Dec. 15 for coverage through the 2018 Federal Health Insurance Exchange to begin Jan. 1, 2018. This enrollment period is the shortest (45 days) in recent years, so those without health care coverage should act immediately.

To qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums, those seeking to apply should go online to www.healthcare.gov. Most of those who get their health insurance coverage through the ACA are eligible for what are known as Advanced Premium Tax Credits.

In some states, the average ACA health insurance premium is calculated at $662 per month, but after the APTC subsidy kicks in, the premium comes down to just $129 per month, and in some cases, as low as $87 a month.

In many states last year, enrollment was down. Observers say one of the reasons for the decrease was uncertainty about the future of the ACA, especially after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, vowing to mothball the federal law, which he and the Republican Congress have repeatedly tried, but failed, to do.

The Trump administration has significantly cut the budget for advertising that is intended to make more Americans aware of the ACA Open Enrollment period, in addition to shortening it to just 45 days, hoping to phase it out in the future. The administration has also cut federal funding to nonprofit groups that traditionally helped low-income residents navigate the process of signing up and qualifying for coverage through the ACA.

The White House has also discontinued the cost-sharing reimbursements to insurance companies to help offset rising premiums. As a result, premiums across the nation have gone up anywhere from 15 percent to 21 percent, according to published reports.

Applicants are generally “…guaranteed to be insurable and are encouraged to sign up for health insurance…” through the ACA if they currently have ACA coverage, but want to change their plan for 2018; they don’t have health insurance through their employer or spouse’s employer; they don’t have government coverage (veterans, Medicaid or Medicare); or they’re older than 26 and are no longer on their parents’ policy.

Failure to have health insurance in 2018 will result in a sizable tax penalty, officials warn. For the past two years, that fee has been $695.00 per uninsured adult and $347.00 per uninsured child, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.

Also keep in mind, per new rules that are now in effect, insurance companies can now deny you coverage if you owe them money on current coverage. You must settle any outstanding balances before you will be re-enrolled.

And you can also be denied the premium tax credit to lower your bill in 2018 if you’re behind in your taxes. To correct this problem, fill out the federal tax reconciliation IRS form 8962 to determine your 2016 taxable income.

For more information, call 1-800-318-2596 or go to www.healthcare.gov.