DELAWARE - The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services says that despite significant challenges to enrollment, nearly 25,000 Delawareans signed up for coverage for 2018 on Delaware’s Health Insurance Marketplace.
The enrollment was reportedly about 10 percent lower than the 27,584 who signed up last year. On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) came out with Delaware’s enrollment total of 24,860 for the six-week enrollment period that ended Dec. 15.
Officials say that this year’s enrollment period, the fifth year for open enrollment, was half as long as it was last year. Nationwide, nearly nine million people signed up for coverage in the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov for the online enrollments.
Governor John Carney says, “I am pleased that so many Delawareans saw the value and the need in having health insurance coverage despite the challenges they faced this year during open enrollment. Health insurance provides that critical connection to quality health care. That connection is the first step toward building a healthier Delaware.”
Earlier this year, Aetna said that it would not sell plans on Delaware's Health Insurance Marketplace for next year leaving Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware as the only insurer on the marketplace, which meant that enrollees who had coverage through Aetna Health or Aetna Life for 2017 had to select one of seven Highmark plans that were available for purchase in 2018 or they were automatically enrolled in a similar plan offered by Highmark.
In October, just before the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1, Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro said that the Department of Insurance had approved an average rate increase of 25 percent for Highmark’s plans for next year.
Department of Health and Social Services (D.H.S.S.) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician says, “I am grateful that we were able to get out the message to Delawareans that health insurance is important to have and that financial assistance was available to help them pay for it. Our federal navigators, enrollment helpers and insurance agents and brokers did an outstanding job of working with people to help them understand their options, including the availability of federal financial assistance.”
Throughout 2017, more than 81 percent of Delaware enrollees reportedly received financial help, including tax credits, which help to cut the cost of monthly premiums. The percentage of Delaware residents who received financial help for next year is not yet available. Financial help was reportedly available to individuals with an annual household income up to $47,520 and up to $97,200 for a family of four. CMS plans to release a full enrollment report in March.
U.S. Senator Tom Carper says, “Despite the challenge of a much shorter enrollment period and little funding for marketing, Delaware still enrolled thousands of people who may not otherwise have been able to get covered. I will continue my work to strengthen the health insurance marketplace and bring down the cost of healthcare for all Delawareans.”
In addition to insurance agents and brokers, Westside Family Healthcare, Chatman LLC, Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington and La Red Health Center in Georgetown reportedly gave out one-on-on enrollment help. They will now help people who have questions about using their health insurance and they also can help people who qualify for a special enrollment. People who experience a life-qualifying event such as the birth or adoption of a child, marriage or divorce, moving from one state to another, or losing coverage through employment can shop for and enroll for coverage on the health insurance marketplace outside of the open enrollment period.
To learn more about special enrollments, people can go here. In addition to the health insurance marketplace, some residents could qualify for coverage though Delaware’s expanded Medicaid program, which is open all year. Officials say that more than 10,000 residents have gotten coverage under the Medicaid expansion. To be screened for or to apply for Medicaid benefits, people can go to Delaware ASSIST.
Under the Affordable Care Act, people who can afford health coverage, but who choose not to buy it, could end up having to pay a penalty when they file their federal tax return for the year they don’t have coverage. For 2017, the fee will reportedly be equal to the higher of these amounts: 2.5 percent of annual household income or $695 per adult, plus $347.50 for each child under 18.
The maximum amount is $2,085 per household. In addition to the fee, consumers will be have to pay the total cost of any health care expenses they incur. Under the tax cut just passed by Congress and awaiting the signature of President Donald Trump, the individual mandate will be repealed beginning for the 2019 tax year.
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