The next open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace begins in just over a month, on November 1st, and ends on December 15. As community organizations across Texas gear up to get the word out that the ACA is still the law of the land, the Trump Administration continues to create roadblocks to enrollment in the ACA Marketplace.
This week we’ve seen two new announcements from the Trump administration that will limit consumers’ ability to enroll or re-enroll in coverage in the small six-week window of open enrollment. These new changes include:
- CMS will not require insurance companies to send renewal notices by the original deadline of November 1, 2017 (the first day of open enrollment). The renewal notice tells consumers what their premiums will be for the upcoming year and informs them that they have the option to choose other plans. Consumers who don’t receive those notices promptly won’t have all the information they need to decide whether they should renew with their current plan, or switch to a new plan until sometime after the open enrollment period has already started.
- During open enrollment, CMS will shut down HealthCare.gov for site maintenance for up to 12 hours, starting at midnight on the first night of open enrollment, Wednesday Nov. 1st, and also at midnight every Saturday (except December 10) until open enrollment ends. While site maintenance is not unusual, in previous OE periods it was done in much smaller increments. This level of maintenance has been criticized as unnecessary and a potential barrier, especially given that open enrollment is a mere six weeks this year.
These new actions add to the ever-increasing list of actions taken by the administration to undermine the ACA and erode the stability of the Marketplaces. Others include:
- 90% cut to advertising budget and 41% cut to Navigator grants for enrollment assistance programs. Many Texas Navigator groups saw cuts well above the national average.
- Canceled federal contracts for outreach and enrollment assistance in 15 cities. Six of those cities are in Texas.
- Relaxed enforcement of the individual mandate, which serves to encourage participation by healthier enrollees.
- No long-term commitment from the federal government to make good on “cost-sharing reduction” payments that are critical to maintain the value and affordability of coverage.
- New regulations that hinder enrollment, may increase out-of-pocket costs, and shrink plan networks. The regulations include reducing the open enrollment period from 3 months to only 6 weeks.
- A directive from HHS to its regional field offices to stop their participation in ACA outreach events sponsored by local and state organizations. HHS participation had been common.
The combination of all of these sabotage efforts will mean an uphill battle to get the word out to consumers that affordable coverage is still available. While the fight to defend the ACA in Congress appears to be on hold for now, the fight to defend the continued implementation of the law is just getting started. It’s up to Texas community members to spread the word that the ACA is still the law, and affordable coverage is still available for many of those who need it.
Find out how you can help get people enrolled by signing up for our webinar here.