Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Creep Upward as Deadline Looms
With less than two weeks left before the enrollment deadline for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an estimated 4.2 million Americans have already signed up since enrollment began on October 1, 2013. The Congressional Budget Office predicted 6 million signups by the March 31, 2014 deadline.
Obamacare, as the ACA is more commonly known, has been controversial. The government web site through which most Americans must sign up (some states have their own web site) was rife with technical problems for weeks after it launched. Although signing up by phone or by mailing in an application is possible, the focus of the media and Obamacare supporters was on sending people to the website, whose early technical problems were likely to have slowed down registration. The Obama Administration has not made their own prediction of the number of final sign-ups nor have they commented on the 6 million predicted by the Congressional Budget Office.
By signing up for health insurance through the ACA marketplace, many Americans will qualify for a tax credit or subsidy that can be paid directly to their chosen healthcare provider, lowering their out-of-pocket cost for premiums and in some cases, co-payments for health services. The goal of the ACA has been touted as affordable healthcare for everyone, but not everyone will be able to get the tax credits: qualifying for the tax credit depends on household income. Some people who are not eligible for the tax deduction are still signing up through the ACA website, according to government data. Of the people who have signed up so far, 83% qualify for tax credits.
The new law requires that all health insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions and provide prescription medication coverage. Many insurance companies dropped old plans and created new ones to comply with the new rules. Prescription coverage may help many people pay for their medications, but co-payments could be higher than the cost of some medications under already existing discount plans at pharmacies. The pre-existing condition coverage rule does enable people who were previously unable to get health insurance due to a pre-existing illness to find coverage.
It is not necessary to purchase health insurance through the ACA marketplace; it is only necessary to use the marketplace to get the tax credit. The next open enrollment period will be shorter than the introductory one was, running from November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015.