Health officials delay open enrollment in Obamacare
WASHINGTON (CNN) — After the many bumps, ruts and roadblocks the Affordable Care Act has run into, health officials in Washington have decided to delay open enrollment in Obamacare — not this year, but a year down the road.
The Department of Health and Human Services wants to give insurers, consumers and engineers more time to avoid the first go-round’s site crashes, coverage train wrecks and cost surprises.
It has moved the start of next year’s open enrollment from October 15 to November 15 and extended the sign-up period from roughly seven weeks to eight, an HHS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CNN.
The change will not affect this coverage year, which begins January 1, 2014.
The postponement “will give issuers the benefit of more time to evaluate their experiences during the 2014 plan year and allow them to take into account those who may enroll late, including young adults, before setting 2015 rates,” the official said.
Young adults are less likely than their older counterparts to take out a health insurance policy, but even without that issue, enrollment in Obamacare has been minute overall, particularly via the federal sign-up website HealthCare.gov.
Exact numbers are hard to pin down in the 36 states using the site. But as of November 2, just 26,794 people had enrolled in the HealthCare.gov states.
CNN’s current tally for this group stands at less than 45,000 enrollees, but that’s based on just a handful of states that have provided updates.
In the 14 states running their own sign-up methods, the numbers look better but still dismal. At least 133,000 people had enrolled at last count.
Many more have taken advantage of the expansion of Medicaid.
The health department hopes that the added time will encourage insurers to get coverage details right and make their plans more affordable, while consumers have more time to flush the the devil out of the details.
Some consumers were not only hit with high premiums during the roll-out but also with deductibles above flood stage.
People picking the bronze plan, which has the lowest premiums, will shell out about $5,000 before insurers foot the bills.
Even then, policy holders will cover plenty out of pocket, like doctor visits, lab tests and medications.
“All we ever heard about Obamacare is that it would lower our deductibles and premiums,” said Jennifer Slafter, 40 of Mabel, Minn. “That’s just not what’s happened.”
Slafter and her husband, Steve, are scrambling to find affordable care for themselves and their two children. The exchange’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plan was $1,087 a month with a $6,000 deductible, while a Medica plan was $877 a month with a $12,700 deductible.
Both are steeper than their current plan.
As a side effect, the enrollment delay could also give everyone more time to contend with the political battle over Obamacare and whatever changes to the Affordable Care Act that might result.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have distributed a digital playbook among their ranks to align talking points against Obamacare. The strategy memo is titled “Because of Obamacare … I lost my insurance,” and includes propaganda videos, fliers and social media posts.
The American people are handing President Obama a beating over the many glitches in the rollout of the ACA, with his approval ratings in polls bouncing down a staircase from one low point to the next.
Obamacare is even less popular.