- The enrollment period for Affordable Care Act health insurance plans is open until Jan. 15.
- For coverage to begin on Jan. 1, consumers need to sign up by Dec. 15.
- So far, almost 4.6 million Americans have enrolled in 2022 plans.
- Experts say more subsidies are available this year and insurance premiums are lower.
Flush with new subsidies for consumers and on the heels of an $80 million marketing campaign to build awareness, sign-ups for individual market health insurance coverage created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are moving at an impressive clip.
Almost 4.6 million Americans have purchased health insurance through healthcare.gov or state-based insurance exchanges during this latest open enrollment period, according to data from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS).
Of that 4.6 million, 20 percent are new enrollees for 2022, while the other 80 percent have active coverage and are returning to renew plans or select new ones, according to CMS officials.
“Today’s report is proof that our efforts are yielding results,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release. “Thanks to our unprecedented outreach campaigns and investments from the American Rescue Plan, millions of people across the nation are gaining health insurance with lower premiums and more choices than ever. We will continue working to get more people covered throughout the remainder of the open enrollment period.”
There’s a deadline of Dec. 15 for obtaining insurance coverage that kicks on Jan. 1.
The open enrollment period, which began Nov. 1, has been extended an extra 30 days this year. People who sign up between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15 will see their health coverage start on Feb. 1.
In the near term, health insurance plans on the ACA, also known as Obamacare, are cheaper for the average consumer than previously offered.
Experts credit some of the tenets of the American Rescue Plan passed in March 2021, which significantly expanded subsidies for more middle-income Americans.
“That law eliminated the income cap for subsidy eligibility in 2021 and 2022, and also made subsidies larger for 2021 and 2022, by reducing the percentage of income that people have to pay to buy the benchmark plan (second-lowest-cost silver plan),” Louise Norris, a licensed broker and analyst for healthinsurance.org, told Healthline. “All of that is still in effect for 2022, so people who are shopping now will tend to see larger subsidies than they saw during last fall’s open enrollment period.”
The new law expands subsidies to ensure that no family spends more than 8.5 percent of their income on a benchmark plan.
According to CMS officials, that should net out to a savings of $50 a person a month or $85 a policy a month. In addition, half of the enrollees should be able to obtain a Silver-level plan for $10 or less a month.
And premiums are down even before those changes are factored in.
“The average premium for a 2022 benchmark ACA [plan] is about 3 percent lower than for 2021, so that’s good news,” said Nathan Teater, a sales manager at eHealth, a website that helps shoppers compare health plans. “When you couple that with the extension of subsidy eligibility to more consumers, a lot of ACA plan enrollees will be paying less from their own pockets toward premiums next year.”
“The Build Back Better Act is still up in the air,” Norris said. “But if the version that passed the House is enacted, there will be additional improvements to coverage availability and affordability.”
“The [president’s plan] would grant $0 benchmark plans to people receiving unemployment compensation in 2022 and would also close the Medicaid coverage gap for the next few years by granting full subsidies and robust cost-sharing reductions to people who are stuck in the coverage gap in 11 states that have thus far refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA,” she explained.
And plans may change depending on the course of COVID-19 in the United States as well.
“If – fingers crossed – the COVID pandemic finally begins to wind down in 2022, we may also see some changes to coverage,” Teater said. “Early in the pandemic, many insurers voluntarily expanded coverage for COVID-related testing and treatment beyond the typical limits of their plans. In a recent survey of health insurance companies that eHealth works with, we reported that 38 percent of insurers have already reduced, or plan to reduce, those voluntarily expanded benefits.”