Six months and over 1 million applications and over 700,000 enrolled people later, the countdown is on for those who have not enrolled for mandated health care coverage.
Since the launch of open enrollment last October, which caused controversies and confusion for many, the Affordable Care Act implemented by President Barack Obama comes into its final days in an effort to get health care for all Americans.
While the road might have been bumpy, numbers show enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace continued to rise in February to a five-month total of 4.2 million.
As in January, the percent of young adults who selected a Marketplace plan was 3 percentage points higher than it was from October through December (27 percent versus 24 percent). Based on enrollment patterns in other health care programs, it is expected that more people will sign up as we get closer to the March 31 deadline.
“Over 4.2 million Americans have signed up for affordable plans through the Marketplace,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Now, during this final month of open enrollment, our message to the American people is this: You still have time to get covered, but you’ll want to sign up today—the deadline is March 31.”
In New York, New York State of Health (NYSOH), the state’s official health plan marketplace, reported this week that over 1 million New Yorkers have completed their applications and 717,207 have enrolled for coverage since the launch of the Marketplace. More than 70 percent of those who have enrolled to date were uninsured at the time of application.
NYSOH is joining the chorus in getting New Yorkers to enroll before March 31. Also, individuals who have completed applications must select a health plan before the March 31 deadline to be enrolled. New York is on track to meet or exceed its enrollment goal of 1.1 million people by the end of 2016.
“We’re very excited that more than 717,000 New Yorkers have enrolled for quality, low-cost health insurance, and more than 1 million people have completed applications since the Oct. 1 launch. I’d also like to thank the CBC for its recognition of New York’s efforts on the marketplace,” said Donna Frescatore, executive director of New York State of Health.
NYSOH Customer Service Center representatives have answered nearly 912,000 calls from New Yorkers since the launch of the Marketplace. More than 8,500 specially trained and certified assistants are available in counties throughout the state to help people apply in person.
The push is also on to make people aware of the penalties if they don’t enroll. The maximum penalty is the national average yearly premium for a bronze plan, which is $95 per person for the year and $47.50 per child under 18. The maximum penalty per family could be $285. By 2016, the penalty rises to 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person. After that, it’s adjusted for inflation.
People who purchase their coverage directly are reportedly seeing premium rates that are 53 percent lower than the rates in effect in 2013 for comparable coverage. To further reduce costs, NYSOH is making financial assistance available in the form of federal tax credits to help reduce the monthly cost of coverage. More than 70 percent of those who have enrolled thus far have qualified for financial assistance to help pay for their coverage.
And while the push to get Americans to get enrolled continues, the forceful push continues to get more African-Americans enrolled. Since open enrollment started, numerous campaigns have rolled out in an effort to improve the health of African-Americans. The population represents a large number of uninsured Americans. Twenty-one percent, or one in five, of African-Americans under the age of 65 do not have health insurance coverage.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 14 percent of African-Americans are considered to be in fair or poor health. Approximately 38 percent of African-American men and 44 percent of African-American women 20 years of age or older have hypertension, while 38 percent of African-American men and 54 percent of African-American women over 20 years of age are obese.
The National Medical Association (NMA), the nation’s largest organization of African-American physicians, announced earlier this month its partnership with Enroll America and African-American religious denominations to help educate Black communities about the Affordable Care Act and increase public awareness about the opportunity for African-Americans to have health insurance coverage.
A recent survey by Enroll America showed that 68 percent of uninsured African-Americans are unaware that financial help is available to help pay for the new health insurance options. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, six in 10 uninsured African-Americans may qualify either for tax credits to purchase coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace or for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
“The churches in the African-American community play a pivotal role in informing people about the Affordable Care Act and encouraging them to enroll for health coverage,” said Dr. Michael LeNoir, president of the NMA. “Our partnership with the faith community will provide our physicians with the opportunity to help the uninsured understand the long-term ramifications of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In addition, we will provide cholesterol, blood pressure and other screenings at the church events.”