Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Rural areas face confusion as ACA enrollment opens

Open enrollment for health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act begins tomorrow, but many people, especially in rural areas, may face confusion about how to sign up. That could lead to fewer people being covered by health insurance. "Much of the cutbacks and confusion, health-care advocates said, follows President Trump's constant disparagement of the law.

Congress was not able to pass a repeal or replacement law, so the administration may be knocking the legs out from under the law in other ways. The Department of Health and Human Services slashed the ACA advertising budget by 90 percent, which means there are many fewer messages to tell people when open enrollment is, or whether they qualify. HHS also cut by 40 percent grants to pay navigators, which are regular citizens trained to help people sign up for ACA plans.

The Trump administration has also decreased overall access to the plans, trimming open enrollment from three months to six weeks. The enrollment website, www.Healthcare.gov, is also being taken offline for maintenance for 12 hours almost every Sunday during open enrollment, even though weekends are generally a convenient time for people to apply.

"Most recently, Mr. Trump announced plans to cut off subsidies that reimburse insurance companies for assistance they are required to provide to low-income customers who struggle with co-payments and deductibles. The cuts resulted in a crazy quilt of premiums for 2018 that differs radically from the pattern of the last four years, which will upend expectations of consumers in many states," Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear report for The New York Times.

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