Health Policy UpdateNov. 1, 2017 – ACA Open-enrollment Period ApproachesAs of March 2017, about 10.3 million people signed up and paid for coverage on the ACA exchanges. The next enrollment period begins Nov. 1, 2017 and lasts 45 days. HHS officials said there is no evidence the ads have boosted enrollment in the past.About 10.3 million people signed up and paid for coverage as of March 2017, down from 10.8 million in March 2016. Recent decisions are to eliminate $116 million from outreach programs aimed at signing people up for the ACA during this next enrollment period. However, the HHS Department will spend $10 million – on advertising, including emails, texts, radio ads and digital promotions – during the open-enrollment period, and is well below the $100 million spent during the last open-enrollment season.Also, the HHS will spend $36.8 million in grants in 2017 on groups, known as “navigators,” which sees a drop of about 40% from the $62.5 million awarded in the previous enrollment period. Agency officials based that funding on the navigators’ ability to reach their enrollment goals.The IRS has issued letters this year saying it will continue enforcing the law’s requirement that most people pay a penalty if they can afford health insurance but don’t buy it. The law has not been revised, so they must abide by the established standard.Also noteworthy is the fact that consumers enrolled in the ACA’s exchanges will still be automatically re-enrolled for 2018, according to agency guidance. This year, consumers who were in plans that have been terminated will also be automatically enrolled in another available plan. Auto-enrollment is considered essential for maintaining sign-ups; last year, more than half of people who obtained coverage on the exchanges were automatically enrolled.For the moment, it remains unclear whether the administration will continue providing ‘cost-sharing reduction’ payments to insurers which help them offset subsidies to low-income consumers. Insurers consider these payments critical to their ability to remain in the law’s marketplaces.Many insurers are already worried the sign-ups for 2018 will be low. They cite a shorter enrollment period and planned premium increases they see as tied to uncertainty about the cost-sharing payments.Insurers speculate that the higher premiums go, the fewer healthy people will enroll.And, those seeking medical coverage still don’t have clear answers to help them make their decisions.Source: WSJ Updated

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