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Navigating the Affordable Care Act During Open Enrollment 2018

There were a lot of changes that were implemented for this upcoming Open Enrollment season, but do you know how much they will actually impact you?

Here are a few of the changes that are being made:

Open Enrollment season has been cut in half. The Trump administration has shortened Open Enrollment to just 45 days. That means shoppers won’t have the month of January to make their decisions as in the past — in fact, they won’t even have all of December. Open Enrollment starts Wednesday, Nov. 1 and ends Wednesday, Dec. 15.

Government assistance to help people purchase plans wisely will be reduced. The site will be shut down every Sunday from midnight to noon for maintenance during Open Enrollment, except for Sunday, Dec. 10. This could be especially troublesome for employed people who need the weekends to do this kind of research.

Premiums look like they’ll be much higher than last year for many people, but they actually won’t be. Although the Congressional Budget Office said premiums will rise 15 to 20%, on average, this year, that’s not actually the whole story. Some 84% of enrollees in the ACA exchanges will qualify for premium tax credits (people with incomes under $48,240 and families of four with incomes under $98,400, for example) and the size of those credits increases along with the price of a mid-level (Silver) insurance plan. So when the premiums of Silver plans — by far, the most popular plans — go up, their tax credit subsidies go up accordingly.

For some people this Open Enrollment season, Gold plans will be less expensive than Silver plans with more limited coverage. That’s the exact opposite of the way the metal plan ladder is supposed to work.

The Trump administration stopped paying health insurers what are known as “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies, which compensate them for keeping deductibles and co-payments down for low-income customers (individuals with income under $30,150 and families of four with income under $61,500). To make up for the loss of the subsidies, insurers in 40 states have jacked up prices of their Silver plans. Consequently, those plans may be pricier than low-deductible, but typically higher premium, Gold and Platinum plans.

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