The deadline for getting a health plan under the Affordable Care Act is fast approaching.
Open enrollment under the health care law passed by the Obama administration started November 1.
According to the Montana Primary Care Association’s Olivia Riutta, there’s a strong local demand for enrollment assistance.
“In the first four weeks of open enrollment, so, ending on Saturday the 26th, nationally, we’ve seen 2.28 million Americans enroll, which is a slight uptick from last year. We don’t yet know how that plays out here in Montana, but what we’re hearing from the field is that we continue to see strong demand from folks who have questions or need enrollment assistance," she said.
As directed by the Trump administration, this year’s ACA enrollment period ends December 15. A full six weeks shorter than previous years.
Riutta says that affects first-timers and existing enrollees alike.
“We do expect that the folks who in past years would have been able to go back in and change their plan after the first of the year are no longer going to have that opportunity. So, time is of the essence,” she said.
The open enrollment advertising and navigator budgets have also been slashed this year. Navigators help people figure out which plans are a good fit.
“It’s going to be a heavy lift, but we’re doing absolutely everything we can and have been preparing for open enrollment for many months so that we can meet the demand that we see in our local communities as much as possible,” Riutta said.
There’s real money at stake here.
Those who would rather pay a tax penalty than buy health coverage will be on the hook for up to 2.5 percent of their total household income, up to a maximum of just over $2,000.
Riutta notes that 85 percent of Montanans qualify for financial assistance to help make monthly premiums more affordable.
She encourages people to apply for that assistance even if they’re not sure they qualify.