Health insurance deadline looms for those seeking federal subsidies

  • The federal website where consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is shown on a computer screen in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

Monitor staff
Published: 12/11/2018 5:51:19 PM

The shortened signup period for Affordable Care Act health insurance ends Saturday, with the number of New Hampshire residents enrolling through the federal marketplace currently about 20 percent lower than at this time last year.

As of Dec. 6, a total of 15,255 state residents had enrolled through Healthcare.gov, roughly 4,000 fewer than at this time last year, according to federal data.

Since the deadline for Healthcare.gov signups is midnight Saturday, it seems highly unlikely that the final tally will equal last year’s figure of about 51,000. In past years, the enrollment period has lasted as long as three months, but the Trump administration cut it this year to just 45 days. It also slashed the budget for publicizing enrollment in the Affordable Care Act by 90 percent.

People who want to be eligible for federal insurance subsidies must sign up through Healthcare.gov before the deadline. Insurance can still be purchased through other agencies, but without the option of subsidies. Coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2019.

Most of the 39 states that use the federal marketplace are reporting similar declines, with national signups running roughly 500,000 behind last year.

Aside from the cutback in publicity, several factors are likely to contribute to the shortfall so far.

Congress has eliminated financial penalties for people who don’t get health insurance starting next year, which may reduce the incentive for some people.

The Trump administration has also allowed some health care plans to be sold off the federal marketplace that are exempt from certain ACA requirements, making them cheaper but, critics argue, insufficient to provide the health safety net that is required.

In New Hampshire, signups for the ACA may also have been affected by the state’s expansion of Medicaid, which provided health insurance to some 60,000 people who otherwise might have needed to go through Healthcare.gov.

Three companies will offer insurance plans in New Hampshire through the marketplace for next year: Anthem, Ambetter from N.H. Healthy Families, and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Residents who met income requirements may be able to get insurance through a program called New Hampshire Granite Advantage Program.

For more information or to find a person to assist people looking for health insurance, visit CoveringNewHampshire.org or call 1-800-318-2596.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com.)



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