Today Last Day To Enroll For Coverage Beginning Jan. 1

By  //  December 23, 2013

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'UNAFFORDABLE' PREMIUMS FOR SOME, HIGH DEDUCTIBLES AND 'STICKER SHOCK' FOR OTHERS

ABOVE VIDEO: CBS News’ Wyatt Andrews reports on Monday’s deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. As expected, websites and call centers in many states experienced heavy demand over the weekend. 

Today is the deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) Federal exchanges in order to have coverage starting Jan. 1.

Obama administration officials claim that HealthCare.gov is capable of handling what is expected to be a last minute rush on the website.

Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told USA Today that the site “can now handle at least 800,000 people a day, and if the system begins to run slowly…a queuing system will allow people to leave their e-mail addresses.”

ACA ENROLLMENT PICKING UP WITH WEBSITE IMPROVEMENT

President Obama announced on Friday that healthcare.gov had enrolled more than 500,000 people in health insurance plans so far in December, and according to a report in Politico, when counting all exchanges, “more than one million Americans signed up for health insurance under the ACA during the first three weeks of December.”

MANY YOUNG PEOPLE SEEM APATHETIC TO ACA ENROLLMENT

Nonetheless, there is still grave concern that young people who most need to enroll to make the ACA economic formula work and keep premiums “affordable” are not paying much attention.

This photo of a young man, who has been dubbed 'Pajama Boy,' by the media, Pajama Boy’s place in Internet infamy was secured as soon as the insufferable man-child was tweeted out by Organizing for America. He is the face of a web ad that is the latest effort by the Obama team to leverage the holidays for conversation about Obamacare. “Wear pajamas,” the ad reads. “Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance. #GetTalking.”

This photo of a young man, who has been dubbed ‘Pajama Boy’ by the media, was tweeted out by Organizing for America, and is the face of a web ad that is the latest effort by the Obama team to leverage the holidays for conversation about Obamacare.

The Obama Administration is trying to encourage young people to signup through targeted media campaigns because if too few of them enroll, premiums may skyrocket.

According to White House officials, efforts to reach out to young people will intensify even more in the New Year and they insist that past experience shows that young people are most likely to wait until the last minute before buying health insurance.

ENROLLEES MAY BE CAUGHT OFF GUARD BY HIGH DEDUCTIBLES

With more Americans now able to get online to shop the ACA exchange, the AP reports on concerns that many consumers purchasing insurance are choosing policies with the lowest premiums.

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Obamacare exchange enrollees who focus only on a monthly premium dollar amount may have “sticker shock” when they accrue medical expenses and have to pay high deductibles.

Because the total value of a health insurance policy goes beyond just the cost of a premium, enrollees who focus only on a monthly premium dollar amount may have “sticker shock” when they accrue medical expenses and have to pay high deductibles, the amount the policyholder must pay before the insurer picks up any of the cost of medical care.

The Obamacare health insurance exchanges offer policies ranked as bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, with the bronze options having the lowest monthly premiums but the highest deductibles. For those without insurance — about 15 percent of the population— ‘‘it’s important to understand the total cost of ownership of a plan,’’ said Matt Eyles, an executive vice president of Avalere Health, a market analysis firm. ‘‘You just don’t want to look only at the premium.’’

According to an Avalere analysis of marketplace plans in 19 states, on average, a bronze plan’s deductible is more than $4,300. An upgrade to a silver plan could reduce the deductible to about $2,500, and the top-of-the-line platinum plan has the lowest average deductible of $167.

 NYT ANALYSIS: PREMIUMS VARY WIDELY,  ARE UNAFFORDABLE FOR MANY

The New York Times  reports an analysis by the newspaper found that “the cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies varies widely across the country and rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s.”

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As the January 1 date for full implementation draws closer, people are finding out more and more about how all the parts of health care reform will work. The ACA has two mechanisms for paying the bill: taxes and higher insurance premiums, which for many may be unaffordable.

Once an annual premium exceeds 10 percent of annual income experts consider health insurance unaffordable, and, according to the NYT, in some places, premium prices on the exchanges are nearing 20 percent.

Though Health and Human Services said Thursday “that it would permit people whose plans had been canceled to buy bare-bones catastrophic plans,” that does not “address the concerns of those who would like to buy better coverage, yet find premiums in their area too expensive.”

THE GOOD, THE BAD…WILL IT GET UGLY?

The good news is that Healthcare.gov seems to be running better and handling the traffic on this last day of enrollment to purchase health insurance on the exchange for coverage on Jan. 1.  The bad news is that enrollment is still way below expectations, interest in signing up of young, healthy Americans, the lynchpin to the ACA cost equation, just isn’t happening, and the veracity of the law’s moniker of “affordable” is proving to be dubious. (Johnson, AP, 12/23; Kennedy, USA Today, 12/22; Thomas, Abelson, McGinty, New York Times, 12/21; Epstein, Politico, 12/21)


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