There are many reasons to be concerned about the future of the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration has joined a lawsuit that could upend the act, which provides health insurance to millions of Americans. President Donald Trump has promised a replacement for the ACA, which Republicans have long opposed, but nothing has materialized. His administration has also chipped away at provisions of the act and slashed funding to help people sign up for a health plan.
Despite this, the Affordable Care Act remains an important source of health insurance for many Americans. This year, more than 11 million Americans are covered through the ACA.
If you currently don’t have health insurance, now is the time to sign up. The deadline for signups, for plans offered through the ACA exchange or for other plans, is Dec. 15. The individual mandate, which required Americans to have health insurance or to pay a penalty, was repealed in 2017. However, health insurance remains an important investment to ensure your access to comprehensive health care ranging from preventative care to catastrophic coverage for unexpected major illnesses or injury.
The Affordable Care Act created what’s called the Health Insurance Marketplace, or exchange, for Americans who don’t get health insurance through an employer or government program. This is where you go to compare coverage plans, find out if you qualify for financial assistance and sign up for a plan. In Maine, the marketplace is HealthCare.gov.
You don’t need to worry about signing up if you’re already covered, such as through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid, but eligibility requirements to get benefits are pretty broad. To see if you qualify for a plan under the ACA — or if you quality for Maine’s expanded Medicaid program — visit CoverMe.gov. And, if you have insurance through an employer and need to make changes, now is the time to do that, too.
What you’ll pay for health insurance through the exchange each month — your premium — will depend on many different things, but big factors include age, where you live, whether you smoke and your income.
The average premiums for HealthCare.gov plans dropped this year compared with last year, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commission Jeanne M. Lambrew noted in a recent BDN column. According to an analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 59 percent of enrollees in plans offered through HealthCare.gov in Maine can find a plan for $10 or less per month, while 74 percent can find a plan for $75 or less.
To browse all available plans and their estimated prices, go to healthcare.gov/see-plans.
There are people specially trained to help you understand your options and sign up: assisters and health insurance agents or brokers. You can find who is nearest to you by visiting localhelp.healthcare.gov.
The Affordable Care Act has been, and continues to be, a political lightning rod, but don’t let the politics distract you from protecting your health and making sure you have coverage for yourself and your family.
There is clear evidence that having health insurance increases access to primary care, preventive care, treatment for chronic illnesses, medications and surgery, and ultimately helps people be more financially secure and live longer lives. So don’t forget to sign up by Dec. 15.