Well, we are officially through the inaugural open enrollment for the new Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Starting on October 1st, 2013 and ending on March 31st, 2014, individuals were allowed to enroll in guaranteed issue, ACA-mandated health insurance plans and some were able to receive premium assistance on these plans, based on income. For those that already had health insurance, the whole situation was largely anti-climactic, as many people kept their existing policies and nothing changed. In the majority of cases, the ACA plans were priced higher than the existing plans, so the decision for many was an easy one. For some though, the ACA plan rates were lower than their existing policies or they qualified for premium assistance, so a move to an ACA plan made sense.
The term I would associate most with the six-month long, ACA open enrollment period is “delay”. Many of the mandates and deadlines were delayed as they approached, and in many ways, the whole process played out in a way that didn’t really resemble the original blueprint of the law. President Obama created a difficult situation for himself with his narrative during his presidential campaign in 2012, repeatedly stating “if you like your plan, you can keep it”. These comments created political pressure that he succumbed to and the decision was made to delay the mandate that would have forced people off of their existing plan…until after the next presidential election (quite a coincidence). For many with lower rates on their existing plan, this is a positive development.
So what does this mean going forward? If you have a non-ACA compliant plan, you will still be able to keep that plan until 2017 (originally, the law required everyone move to an ACA plan in 2014). It’s unclear what rate increases will look like in the coming years, but so far in 2014, the rate increases on the non-ACA group plans have been averaging 10-15%. Again, this is only an average and we have no real indication of what to expect in the individual market. But the good news is that for everyone still on an older plan, you will at least be the option of continuing coverage on that plan. The next open enrollment is scheduled for November 15th, 2014 though February 15th, 2015 so we will go through this process all over again. The only thing that remains unclear is who the players will be in the individual market, as carriers will have to decide if they are going sell individual health insurance and also whether or not they will make their plans available on the Marketplace (healthcare.gov). The picture will become much more clear by Septemer or thereabouts, so stay tuned!