Patient Support & Advocacy

3 things to tell your patients about signing up at HealthCare.gov

Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces is down about 11 percent from last year—that means an additional 300,000 people may be without coverage in 2019. But physicians have an opportunity to help spread the word and ensure that patients and their families have the health coverage they need in the new year.

“As physicians, we know that people without insurance live sicker and die younger,” said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD. “The holiday season is a busy time for everyone, but by taking a few minutes before Dec. 15 and selecting a coverage plan for 2019, Americans can take a critical step to protect their physical and financial health in the year ahead.”

Enrollment is down by more than 20 percent in 13 states as of Thanksgiving weekend. The numbers are particularly low in Virginia and Maine, where enrollment is down 39 percent and 27 percent compared to Nov. 24, 2017.

Your patients may not be receiving the information they need to know about enrolling in an individual marketplace plan, so it is critical that physicians get the word out.

The AMA offers detailed guidance to help patients and physicians navigate 2018 open enrollment for health insurance

Here are three messages to relay to patients.

It is not too late to sign up. Uninsured Americans and people interested in exploring their coverage options for 2019 have until Dec. 15 to enroll on the HealthCare.gov website. There some exceptions to that deadline, as follows:

  • California—Dec. 14.
  • Massachusetts—Dec. 23.
  • Rhode Island—Dec. 31.
  • New York—Jan. 31, 2019.

In these 11 states and the District of Columbia, patients won’t use HealthCare.gov to shop for an ACA marketplace plan, but a state-run website.

Do not just automatically repeat what you signed up for last year. Automatic re-enrollment does keep patients covered, but better plans with more coverage or a more affordable price may be available.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reports that the average cost of a benchmark silver plan premium will be down 1.5 percent for 40-year-olds. The average monthly benchmark silver plan premium price for a 40-year-old individual—before any applicable tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies are applied—will be $495 in 2019, compared with $502 in 2018, KFF calculated.

Check this list before sitting down to re-enroll. Patients should follow this checklist of the 10 things needed to complete enrollment in the individual marketplace. These include Social Security numbers, birthdates and mailing addresses for everyone applying for coverage.