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Letter to the editor: Do your homework on marketplace insurance

It is no wonder that there’s a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a “Obamacare”) as Congress and the president go back and forth on repealing and replacing the law. People are understandably confused about whether they may still enroll for 2018 coverage or how they go about doing it.

As in past years, subsidies are available to help lower premiums and reduce deductibles and co-pays for people who qualify and buy their coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. And, they can still shop and compare coverage options there. Open enrollment for 2018 coverage started on Nov. 1 and ends on Dec. 15 – a much shorter period than prior years. After that, consumers can enroll or change plans only if they qualify for a special enrollment period, like losing other coverage, getting married, or having a baby.

Enrollment outreach services have also been significantly reduced this year. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) cut the marketing budget for the Marketplace by 90 percent and funding for navigators - who help people sign up for coverage - by 41 percent.

Premiums will be more in 2018, but how much more will depend on which policy you chose. North Dakota’s Marketplace insurers will implement average rate increases of between 7.9 and 22.6 percent. It is important to know that if you do nothing, you can be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan for 2018, which may have a significant premium increase.

Some plans that were offered last year will not be available next year and you could be automatically redirected into a new plan that does not suit your needs. For example, your doctors may not participate in the new plan or your drugs may not be covered.

Currently, more than 45,000 North Dakotans get their health coverage through the Marketplace. We fear that these changes will mean the loss of coverage for them and other North Dakotans in 2018 if people do not understand their options and act promptly. If you have questions about the Marketplace and enrolling in a 2018 health plan, go to https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage to compare plans available in North Dakota, find in-person help, apply for financial assistance, and enroll.

Jurena is president of the North Dakota Hospital Association.

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