The federal government is pulling out all the stops to encourage people to shop around and sign up for health insurance before the first major deadline for the 2016 open-enrollment period.
Consumers who want health coverage to start Jan. 1 must sign up by Dec. 15. Many people fall into this category, especially the thousands of members who had a health plan from one of the 12 shuttering co-ops.
Besides reciting the usual lines about low-cost premiums and subsidies, HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan recently wrote a blog post that highlighted the individual mandate's tax penalty for people who skip out on buying coverage.
HHS also announced it is partnering with 38,000 pharmacies across the country, including CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. People who may be shopping for toiletries or picking up a prescription at those stores will be able to sign up for a health plan with the help of embedded “enrollment assisters.”
More than 3 million people had selected a health plan on the state and federal exchanges as of Dec. 5. Charles Gaba, a blogger who tracks health insurance enrollment and supports much of the Affordable Care Act, estimated that 11.3 million people will choose a plan by the third week of December. That number includes passive users who will be automatically renewed in their same health plan.
The most difficult part will be appealing to people after this week's deadline. Those who wait until after the new year to buy a plan “are not as concerned about having a slight gap in coverage,” Gaba said. He expects there will be 12.2 million paying exchange members by the end of 2016, above HHS' average estimate of about 10 million.