The sign-up period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) is upon us, and enrolling is going to be a little more challenging than years past. The enrollment period is now only six weeks – until Dec. 15 – and the Healthcare.gov website will periodically go dark throughout this span. What’s more, there’s less funding this year for ACA advertisements and enrollment counselors.
While these changes could make it more difficult for you to sign up, we’re here to help you save. Here are some helpful tips on enrollment, and information on how GoodRx can help cut your costs.
When do I sign up?
This year, the enrollment window is shorter than ever—cut in half from last year. For states that use the federal marketplace, 2017 enrollment runs from November 1st to December 15th.
But: states that have their own marketplace can set their own enrollment dates. So if you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington, check your state’s marketplace to confirm your exact enrollment dates and sign-up.
Also, know that the Healthcare.gov website will be offline the night of Wednesday, Nov 1, and then every Sunday, except for December 10th, from midnight to noon eastern standard time.
What does this mean for you? With a shorter enrollment period and more blackout dates, it’s more important than ever to enroll early!
What is special enrollment?
The ACA has a program that allows individuals who have undergone a significant life event to enroll in coverage outside of the open enrollment window.
You may qualify for special enrollment if anyone in your household has: married, had a baby, been released from jail, divorced, or died in the past 60 days. If you have experienced any of these events, you will have a 60-day window to enroll in Obamacare, no matter when it happened. Read more to find out if you qualify here.
What’s changing in 2018?
- Premiums are going up. It’s estimated that premiums could rise by 35% this year. Why? Most attribute this to the administration’s threat to cancel the cost-sharing reduction reimbursements. These payments to insurance companies give them incentives to lower deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. You can read more about this decision here. Unfortunately, those who are not eligible for subsidies will be hit the hardest by the rising premiums this year.
- Average subsidies are increasing. Good news, for some. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that the average subsidy in 2018 will increase by 45%. This means that net premiums could be lower for many—but only for those who qualify. In all states, people with gross incomes between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty level may qualify for premiums. To see if you qualify, read here.
- Deductibles are rising. A deductible is the amount of money you pay for health services out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in. Unfortunately, these rates are on the rise, too.
- Fewer low-cost plans available. Last year, 17% of enrollees had access to a plan that cost under $200 per month. This year, only 6% of enrollees will be able to find a plan under $200.
- Fewer issuer and plan options. There are 132 available insurance providers, or issuers, available this year—down from 167 last year. Additionally, people in 8 states, or 29% of enrollees, will have only one issuer to choose from. Last year, only 2% of enrollees were limited to one plan.
- Premiums for silver plans are increasing—37% on average according to The Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, average costs for silver plans will go up by 49% in Florida and 65% In Wyoming. Silver plans are often the most popular, as they tend to have the best options for coverage and cost. However, with such a large increase in silver premiums other metal plans (bronze, gold and platinum) could be a more viable option.
Tips for enrollees
- Watch out for auto-enrollment. If you were enrolled in a plan last year, be sure to log in and re-enroll before December 15th. If you don’t, you will be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan. This might not sound bad, but with premiums rising and coverage changing, your current plan might not be the best option for you. Compare, compare, compare.
- Don’t count on enrollment events or navigators. Navigators and enrollment events educate people on ACA enrollment and help them find the best plan for their family. Unfortunately, funding for these enrollment services has been cut by 92%. These programs have helped many people understand their options in the past, especially non-english speaking families. While it may still be possible to find an event or a navigator, they’ll be hard to find this year. Start early!
How can GoodRx help?
Just because a drug is covered by your insurance, doesn’t mean your plan will make it affordable. But we have some good news, you can use a GoodRx discount instead of your prescription. On average, GoodRx coupon prices beat insurance co-pays 70% of the time in 2017. GoodRx coupons can be especially important if you have a plan with high deductibles or a strict formulary. If you don’t already know your co-pay for your prescription, try calling your insurance or using their web portal to estimate your cost.
When using GoodRx instead of your insurance, the amount you pay will not count towards your deductible. However, you can always contact your insurance company to see if they can apply your purchase to your deductible. Some plans will allow you to submit receipts for potential reimbursement or credit towards your deductible.
Need more than a coupon? GoodRx can also help you find savings tips, suggestions for alternative less-expensive drugs, and information on assistance programs and manufacturer savings.