Open Enrollment for Affordable Care Act begins Wednesday

The Healthcare.gov website is seen on a computer screen Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Washington. It’s sign-up season for the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As the fifth Open Enrollment period begins Wednesday under the Affordable Care Act, experts are hopeful people will know they can still get health insurance through the program, that premiums are still affordable and that help is available despite cuts.

 

Experts at the Kaiser Family Foundation and others have pointed to some misconceptions people have about the program:

•The law has not been repealed. Despite frequent calls from President Trump and at least three major efforts in Congress, no repeal plan garnered enough votes to overturn what has been frequently referred to as Obamacare.

•The requirement to have health insurance is still in effect. Known as the Individual Mandate, it requires most people to have health insurance or to pay a penalty with their taxes. For next year, that is $695 per adult and half that per child, up to $2,080 per family, or 2.5 percent of family income above the tax filing threshold, whichever is greater, according to Kaiser. There is still talk in Congress of trying to repeal the individual mandate.

•Rate hikes have made premiums too expensive for the average person. Many states, including Georgia, saw insurers seek hefty premium increases in part because of the uncertainty surrounding the program and certain payments. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, for instance, sought an average rate increase of 57.5 percent. But in 2017, 90 percent of customers buying health insurance under the law got help paying for premiums and those subsidies tend to rise with the premiums, which should keep rates affordable, according to experts.

Despite a 61 percent cut to those providing in-person assistance in Georgia, help will still be available by phone, online and in-person at events in nearly every county. Despite heavy cuts, Insure Georgia is planning to reach nearly every county with some kind of enrollment event. On Wednesday, for instance, there is an event in Athens at the Athens Library from 4 to 7 p.m. Insure Georgia will have help available online at its web site: insurega.org or over the phone at 1-866-988-8246.

Help is also available by appointment at the following locations in Augusta:

•Insure Georgia Augusta Office, (478) 254-5215;

•Christ Community Health Services, (706) 396-1467;

•Medical Associates Plus, (706) 790-4440 ext.124;

Medical Associates Plus will also hold enrollment events on Nov. 11 at May Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Augusta Public Library, 823 Telfair St. Insure Georgia will hold an enrollment event at the Augusta library on Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well and at the Columbia County Library on Nov. 13 and Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The deadline to enroll for 2018 is Dec. 15 and this year’s enrollment period has been cut in half from previous periods to six weeks.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

 

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