It’s time again for Obamacare open enrollment, when hundreds of thousands of Georgians will pick health care coverage for the coming year.
This year brings relative stability to Georgia’s insurance marketplace, despite ongoing efforts from the Trump administration to weaken the Affordable Care Act.
Here are a few common questions about signing up for coverage.
A look at the number of plans offered on the ACA marketplace in metro Atlanta counties. Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
How long do I have to select a plan?
The open enrollment period for picking Obamacare insurance plans runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
If you don’t sign up during that time, certain life events, such as getting married or having a baby, might qualify you for a special enrollment period.
The federal government also has approved extended enrollment deadlines for people affected by natural disasters, such as the Georgians affected by Hurricane Michael last year.
How can I sign up?
You can enroll at HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov/es/, for a Spanish language experience.
Even though open enrollment hasn’t officially started, you can already browse available plans and prices here.
What kind of help can I get?
Healthcare.gov has answered several common questions about picking an insurance plan and offers a 24/7 helpline at 1-800-318-2596. You can also find resources in several different languages here.
Each year, the federal government picks organizations to help people sign up for Affordable Care Act health coverage — they’re called navigators.
This year, they picked the Georgia Primary Care Association, a group that represents health centers all over the state.
Healthcare.gov also offers connections to local insurance brokers and enrollment assisters.
What’s new on the ACA exchange this year?
For the first time, Healthcare.gov will display quality ratings for many available plans. The federal agency that runs the exchange said the ratings are based on patient experience and quality of care.
Employers can also choose to help pay for their employees’ Obamacare insurance premiums through a new kind of health reimbursement accounts, though that may affect whether an individual qualifies for marketplace subsidies.
More changes to the exchange for 2020 are outlined here.
What about plans and prices?
The federal government said 20 additional insurers will participate in the health care marketplace this year and that premiums are slightly down for consumers.
Remember that you may qualify for subsidies to help cover the cost of a plan, depending on how much money you make.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has built a nifty calculator to help estimate what your subsidy could look like.
Georgians who buy Obamacare health insurance have been through some rocky times since the marketplace launched. Insurance providers have come and gone, premiums have fluctuated dramatically.
And though the overall number of plans available in metro Atlanta is way down from the early years of the ACA, things have been looking up as of late, with two new insurers, CareSource and Oscar Health, coming into the state.
Wait, Obamacare is still a thing?
Yes, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, despite efforts from the Trump administration to dismantle it.
Perhaps the most significant change made to the law was the elimination of the tax penalty tied to the individual mandate that requires people to have health insurance.
That opened up a new challenge against the law brought by several Republican states, including Georgia. A ruling in the case could come soon, though it’s not expected to affect this open enrollment period.
The Trump administration also continues to fund promotional activities at a lower level than in the ACA’s early days. They’re offering up $10 million for Obamacare marketing and outreach, a substantial cut from prior years when they put $100 million to the effort.
Still, people in Georgia continue to sign up for insurance coverage through the healthcare exchange. The Kaiser Family Foundation says 458,437 picked plans during the last open enrollment period.