Health

D.C. Extends Feds’ Window for Health Care Enrollment

Americans have until Dec. 15 to obtain mandatory health coverage through exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. But despite the federal marketplace limiting its open-enrollment period to just six weeks, the District’s state-based health insurance exchange will give city residents an extra month to comply.

People in most states use HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace, to apply for health insurance. The federal exchange opened only on Nov. 1, leaving just a six-week window for enrollment.

But in 15 states, including D.C. and Maryland, residents can sign up through their state’s online marketplace, which in some cases provides more time for enrollment. D.C. Health Link, the District’s ACA marketplace, has offered a three-month open enrollment period which began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31.

In 2017, ACA covered 12.2 million Americans, but health insurance advocates fear actions by the Trump administration, which has failed to make good on promises to repeal the law, could result in more uninsured Americans and cause higher premiums.

“While some elected officials want to take away our health care, we want all residents to get covered and stay covered,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Health care is a right, not a luxury, and here in D.C., we are doing everything we can to protect that right.”

The Trump administration narrowed the 2018 open-enrollment period to six weeks, down from last year’s 12-week session. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services halved the budget for navigators, people who help consumers sign up for health insurance, and reduced the ACA advertising budget by 90 percent to $10 million.

District officials said they will not be discouraged by federal cuts to the program.

The Bowser administration launched its #GetCovered #StayCovered campaign efforts, which they hope will remove barriers to obtaining health insurance and encourage all residents to sign up or re-enroll for coverage through the exchange.

Four major insurance companies — Aetna, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Kaiser Permanente and United HealthCare — proposed health plan offerings through the D.C. Health Link marketplace, with a growth filed plans from 171 to 177 last year. While the number of small-group plans saw no change, in the individual market, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente offer 26 plans for individuals and families in 2018.

“The ACA has enabled thousands of District residents to have affordable, secure, quality health insurance” said D.C. Health Link Executive Director Mila Kofman. “We are committed to maintaining these gains and moving toward 100 percent coverage.”

More than 96 percent of District residents are covered, giving the city some of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation.

As one of only four state marketplaces in the country to launch on time in 2013, D.C. Health Link currently provides health insurance to approximately 18,000 residents through the individual marketplace and more than 76,000 people through the small-business marketplace.

With the federal enrollment period half as long as it was last year, 3.6 million Americans have enrolled for insurance so far through HealthCare.gov, compared to 4 million at the same time last year, according to Centers for Medicaid and Medicare.

The average increase in premiums across all insurers for 2018 is 15.64 percent for individuals and 7.26 percent for small-group plans, according to the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

Residents can shop for and compare health insurance at DCHealthLink.com.

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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