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Enrollment deadline nears for federal insurance marketplace

Saturday (Dec. 15) marks the enrollment deadline for those seeking health insurance through the federal insurance marketplace, healthcare.gov.

Those who miss the open enrollment deadline will be unable to get 2019 coverage unless qualified for a special enrollment period.

“We always urge people to shop around for the best possible deal,” said Jack Cheevers, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services based in San Francisco.

According to Cheevers, Hawaii has two insurers — Kaiser Permanente and Hawaii Medical Service Association — offering a total of 22 plans available on the exchange, so people “do have an ability to shop.”

While many people are auto-enrolled for renewal, Cheevers said customers are encouraged to update their information on the healthcare.gov website because that’s what federal subsidies, or tax credits used to lower premiums, are based on.

New consumers can find plans on the exchange as well.

In Hawaii, Cheevers said the lowest-cost plan is $296 a month without a subsidy, and the average tax credit subsidy for people in Hawaii is $493.

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare,” is “still the law of the land and insurance is still sold around the country on healthcare.gov,” he said.

While the original law penalized people for not having health insurance, Congress did away with that provision beginning in 2019, Cheevers said.

“You won’t be hit with a tax penalty if you don’t have health insurance,” he said. But “not having insurance may not be the wisest decision because health insurance is designed to protect you against a major catastrophe.”

Coverage provides a number of benefits.

“If you should suddenly get sick, God forbid, or get hit by a bus on your way to work, you’re going to wish you had health insurance,” Cheevers said. “Medical costs can be catastrophic … (it) gives people a lot of peace of mind to know they’re protected against catastrophic medical costs.”

In 2017, enrollment in Hawaii reached 17,702. As of Dec. 1, 7,806 people were enrolled through healthcare.gov.

“We usually see a last-minute surge of enrollment as deadline gets closer … ,” Cheevers said.

For more information or to update personal information or add coverage for the first time, visit healthcare.gov.

Help is available by calling 1-800-318-2596. Free in-person help also can be found by using the “find local help” tool on healthcare.gov.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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