Demand Spikes Ahead of Deadline for January 1 Health Coverage: HealthCare.gov is seeing heightened traffic leading up to the December 15 deadline for heath coverage that starts January 1. On December 14, hourly traffic on HealthCare.gov was already higher than it had been on December 15, 2014. The high demand is causing delays. Some site users are being “queued” and asked to wait to log in or create an account, and some people contacting the call center are being asked to leave their contact information so that the marketplace can call them back when lines are less busy. In a statement on December 14, the Department of Health and Human Services said that all consumers who face delays while trying to meet the deadline will be able to have coverage effective January 1.
Different State Deadlines for January 1 Coverage: Consumers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington State have until December 23, and Minnesota’s marketplace extended the deadline to December 28.
New Plan-Comparison Features Launch for All Users on HealthCare.gov: After several weeks of pilot testing, HealthCare.gov announced that its provider- and prescription-drug-look-up tools are available for all users to help them compare plans’ coverage.
New Guidance on Affordable Care Act Innovation Waivers: On December 12, the Department of Health and Human Services released guidance focused on how the department would evaluate state innovation waivers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). States can apply for waivers under Section 1332 of the ACA to meet the same goals of expanding health coverage through different means. California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are in the process of considering applications.
For the Fourth Year in a Row, Fewer Americans Are Having Trouble Paying Medical Bills: On December 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest National Health Interview Survey, finding that the number of Americans in households having trouble paying medical bills fell by nearly 20 percent from the first half of 2011 to the first half of 2015. Lower-income consumers saw the greatest benefits, and most of the reduction came from 2013 to 2015 — the first two years of the ACA’s coverage expansion.
- Colorado: In response to several issuers closing or leaving certain areas in the state at the end of 2015, Connect for Health Colorado is giving affected consumers more time to enroll in a 2016 plan. Consumers who are enrolled in plans through the Colorado HealthOp and Access Health Colorado (along with enrollees of Rocky Mountain Health Plans who are in areas where the issuer is not selling 2016 plans) will still be able to enroll in January 1 coverage through the end of December.
- Connecticut: Around 2,200
- enrollees in Connecticut who did not file taxes for 2014 are at risk of becoming ineligible for their financial assistance in the marketplace in 2016. These consumers have received an average of $500 of financial help each month. Consumers in this situation need to take action to file their 2014 taxes.
- Maine: Community Health Options, a nonprofit issuer created under the ACA’s co-op program, will not take new enrollees for 2016 after December 26. The co-op has faced sharp increases in enrollment and claims costs, but will maintain coverage next year for current enrollees.
- Vermont: On December 14, Vermont Health Connect launched a plan-comparison tool that gives consumers an estimate of their total yearly cost for each marketplace plan in order to help them choose coverage that best fits their needs and budget.
- Federally Facilitated Marketplace: As expected, plan selections on HealthCare.gov ramped up during the fifth week of open enrollment, one of the last weeks before the December 15 deadline. More than 800,000 consumers selected plans that week, which brings the total to over 2.8 million. Around two-thirds were re-enrolling for 2016.
- California: As of December 13, 140,000 consumers had picked marketplace plans on Covered California for 2016. Forty percent of consumers enrolled in the last week (December 7-13) as consumer interest peaked ahead of the December 15 deadline.
- Pennsylvania: Since the state expanded Medicaid one year ago, more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians have gained coverage through the program.
- Rhode Island: As of November 28, 31,000 Rhode Islanders had enrolled in 2016 coverage through HealthSource RI, including automatic re-enrollments. Eighty-six percent qualified for financial assistance.
- Washington State: As of December 1, 123,000 consumers were enrolled in 2016 coverage through the Washington Healthplanfinder, including automatic re-enrollments.