The next open enrollment season for Affordable Care Act exchange plans opens Tuesday amid the charges and countercharges of a heated political campaign.
But the real action will take place over the next two months as millions of uninsured Americans decide whether they will finally sign up for plans or pay the heftier penalties that go into effect next year. Rising premiums and a lack of marketplace competition may wind up doing more damage than politics, especially if the election results follow the polls and Donald Trump loses.
The CMS said last week the average premium increase for benchmark plans was 25%. Some states have reported increases of more than 50%. Since three major insurers announced they were drastically scaling back their participation in the exchanges, a handful of states find themselves with only one insurer in the exchange. As a result, the CMS is extending the sign-up deadlines for people whose plans are being discontinued.
HHS noted that most consumers are shielded from premium increases because they will also get an increase to their subsidies. A recent report states most consumers would be able to find a plan with a premium of $75 a month or less.
HHS has said nearly 80% of consumers will have a choice of two or more insurers and 50% will be able to choose between three or more. The agency recently predicted enrollment for 2017 at 13.8 million. Consumers face a $695 or 2.5% of income penalty if they remain uninsured in 2017.
The last day of enrollment is Jan. 31. Consumers need to be enrolled by Dec. 15 for coverage that starts Jan. 1 and by Jan. 15 for coverage beginning Feb. 1.