We all wait until the last minute to do some things. It may be finding that last holiday gift or buying milk before a storm. But sometimes, procrastinating can have lifelong consequences. Delaying health coverage is one of them.
People without health coverage are more likely to avoid making doctor appointments or filling prescriptions. They are more likely to let chronic illnesses, like diabetes or cancer, go untreated. The quality of care they receive tends to be lower. And, research shows that their risk of death is higher due to lack of timely medical care.
This is why Gov. Janet Mills is committed to helping all people in Maine get covered.
This year, Mainers have new and more affordable options. On her first day in office, the governor expanded MaineCare to more Mainers who previously had no affordable options. It now offers coverage to most adults with annual income of less than $17,236 for a single person or $29,435 for a family of three. There are no monthly charges for this coverage, and you can sign up anytime during the year. More than 54,000 Maine people have cumulatively gained coverage through MaineCare expansion — including 4,000 since the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1.
There’s also good news for people buying private insurance on their own: average premiums for HealthCare.gov plans dropped this year compared to last year. Additionally, people with income less than $49,960 for a single person or $85,320 for a family of three may be eligible for even lower monthly premiums. According to one study, 59 percent of HealthCare.gov enrollees in Maine can find a plan for $10 or less per month, while 74 percent can find a plan for $75 or less.
But time is running out to sign up through HealthCare.gov during the open enrollment period. The deadline to apply for coverage in 2020 is Sunday, Dec. 15.
Unfortunately, many Mainers aren’t aware of the options available to them due to a lack of federal support for marketing and education. The number of Americans who have enrolled since Nov. 1 is 30 percent lower than it was for a similar period last year. While much of that is due to the new option of MaineCare, which has seen a significant increase in applications from Nov. 1 to Dec. 3 this year compared to the same period last year, we hope to multiply the number of Mainers signing up for both MaineCare and HealthCare.gov plans.
We know from previous years that the bulk of consumers sign up through HealthCare.gov during the last week of open enrollment. We look forward to seeing more Mainers get connected to coverage in the run up to the Dec. 15 HealthCare.gov deadline.
If you are uninsured or know someone who is, go to CoverME.gov to learn about your options. Or call (800) 965-7476 for free, local help.
Jeanne M. Lambrew is commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.