Get Covered, Texans: Dec. 15 = Health Care Enrollment Deadline!

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The good news: despite the Trump Administration putting hurdles in front of Americans’ ability to sign up for health care for 2018, Texans are signing up for coverage much faster than they did last year. Despite the Trump Administration putting hurdles in front of Americans’ ability to sign up for health care for 2018, Texans are signing up for coverage much faster than they did last year.

You can view health care plans and sign up at https://www.healthcare.gov/.

Sign up for health insurance today
Sign up for health insurance today

The not-so-good news: Because President Trump cut the insurance sign-up (“open enrollment”) period from 12 weeks to just six, Texans must maintain or even increase our current fast clip of enrollment right up to December 15. If we don’t, more Texans will be uninsured in 2018 than in 2017, keeping Texas sadly ranked last among the states.

Community groups helping Texans with enrollment report high enthusiasm, with the number of Texans enrolled at the four-week point 51 percent above enrollment at that point in 2016. Families are actively shopping, comparing plans, and checking out the help many can get to cut premiums and deductibles. Texas parents want to protect their families’ health and their financial security with health insurance when they have the opportunity to get good coverage at an affordable price.

Because Texas has seen some especially high rates of daily enrollment compared to last year, we wondered what things will look like for Texas IF we can keep up that high pace.

Here are our calculations:

  • Despite high daily rates of enrollment nationwide, in many states Health Insurance Marketplace enrollment rates may ultimately drop below where they stood at the end of last year’s Open Enrollment period. This is because higher-speed enrollment is still not fast enough to make up for cutting the enrollment time in half. It’s like if a track athlete ran world record pace for the first two laps but then had to slow to a jog for the last two laps.
  • If we look at last year’s Open Enrollment through mid-December 2016, and increase it by 51 percent (the increase over 2016 that we have seen in November 2017), it appears that if Texas keeps up the current high pace of enrollment, we could avoid a deep enrollment drop from last year.
  • There’s a “wild card”: Texans who do not actively self-renew will be “auto-renewed” and added to the coverage rolls after the Open Enrollment period ends on 12/15/2017. We don’t really know if the share of Texans who are auto-renewed will be less, the same, or more than last year.
  • If there were zero auto-renewed Texans (not a real possibility), we would see a modest decline in covered Texans compared to last year, but if the same number as last year auto renew, then we could see an increase in Marketplace coverage.

The take-away is: Time to spread the word that the deadline is coming! Hurry hurry hurry! It is critical for Texans to keep up or improve on the high pace of enrollment we saw in November, all the way to December 15! Only by keeping up or stepping up the pace will we avoid losing ground and seeing the ranks of the uninsured in Texans increase again.

You can view health care plans and sign up at https://www.healthcare.gov/.

Note: To calculate the 51 percent increase in the enrollment pace this year compared to last year, we compared plan selection in Texas for the 2017 plan year as of November 26, 2016 to the enrollment in Texas for the 2018 plan year as of November 25, 2017.

Anne Dunkelberg joined the Center in 1994. She is one of the state's leading experts in policy and budget issues relating to health care access. In 2007, she was named Consumer Advocate of the Year by Families USA in Washington, D.C. Before coming to the Center, she served as Program Director for Acute Care in the Texas Medicaid Director's Office and spent six years with the Texas Research League, where she authored numerous reports on Texas health and human services issues and tracked state health and human services budget issues. She earned dual degrees from The University of Texas at Austin—a Bachelor of Arts (Plan II), magna cum laude, in 1979 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1988.

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