The open enrollment period for millions of Americans seeking health insurance for 2019 through the Affordable Care Act begins Thursday.
The enrollment period allows people who don’t have coverage through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or another source to sign up for health insurance on HealthCare.Gov’s Health Insurance Marketplace. The period lasts 45 days, ending Dec. 15 — in most states — and the coverage will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.
The period marks the only time ACA participants will be able to sign up for health insurance coverage for the year unless they qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to certain life events such as losing health coverage, moving, getting married, having a baby or adopting a child.
In order to qualify to enroll in a healthcare plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace on HealthCare.Gov, consumers must live in the United States and be a U.S. citizen or national who is not incarcerated.
On Oct. 22, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued new guidelines to relax requirements for state waivers to provide alternatives to ACA coverage plans.
“Now, states will have a clearer sense of how they can take the lead on making available more insurance options, within the bounds of the Affordable Care Act, that are fiscally sustainable, private sector-driven and consumer-friendly,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
The CMS said the new guidelines should provide increased access to affordable private market coverage, encourage sustainable spending growth, foster state innovation, support and empower those in need, and promote consumer-driven healthcare.
Under the new guidelines consumers with pre-existing conditions will still be able to receive coverage, while states will have the opportunity to offer some consumers short-term plans.
Earlier this month the CMS also announced the average premium for second-lowest cost plans, known as “silver” plans, will decrease by 1.5 percent in 2019, the first time rates have fallen since the ACA, also known as Obamacare, was passed.
Additionally, there are 23 more qualified health plan issuers for 2019 than were participating during open enrollment in 2018 and 29 current issuers expanded their service into more counties.
“The number of counties with only one insurer has dropped from 56 percent in 2018 to 39 percent in 2019, and only five states will have only one insurer, compared to 10 in 2018,” the CMS said.