Asian Reporter web extra, November 1, 2020
ACA sign-ups begin as millions more are uninsured
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
The Associated Press
November 1, 2020
WASHINGTON (AP) ó Millions of Americans who have lost health
insurance in an economy shaken by the coronavirus can sign up
for taxpayer-subsidized coverage starting Sunday, November 1,
Itís not a new COVID relief program from the government but
the return of the annual sign-up season under the Affordable
Care Act, also know as the ACA or Obamacare. Open enrollment
lasts through December 15.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs
HealthCare.gov, says premiums are down slightly on average for
2021 and most people will have at least three insurers from
which to pick plans. Lower-income people and even middle-class
families may qualify for tax credits that can greatly reduce
what they pay monthly for premiums.
But President Donald Trump, unrelenting in his opposition to
President Barack Obamaís signature domestic program, is asking
the Supreme Court to overturn the entire law.
Trump has been promising a much better replacement since
before taking office, but never came out with his plan. The
justices are scheduled to hear the case November 10, and the
administration is doing little to promote sign-ups, having
previously slashed the programís ad budget.
"Affordable health coverage is more essential than ever
during the pandemic," said house Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(D-California), whoís urging people to enroll even if Trump
keeps trying to do away with the law.
Hard numbers on how virus-related job losses have affected
health coverage are not available because the most reliable
government surveys will not be out until next year. Estimates
range from 5 million to 10 million newly uninsured people.
Thatís on top of 26 million uninsured last year, before the
pandemic, or about 8% of the U.S. population.
"There is a coverage crisis happening," said Stan Dorn, a
health policy expert now with Families USA, a liberal advocacy
group. "And there are fewer resources available to help, thanks
to the Trump cuts."
Dorn worries thatís "a setup for epic failure," and many
people will remain uninsured even as states across the country
are seeing alarming increases in coronavirus cases.
Administration officials say HealthCare.gov is open for
business and ready to handle sign-ups online or via its call
center. "Weíll be working through the upcoming open enrollment
period Ö to ensure a smooth user experience," CMS administrator
Seema Verma said.
More than 11 million people currently have coverage through
HealthCare.gov and state-run health insurance markets offering
subsidized private plans. The health law also covers another 12
million people through its Medicaid expansion, adopted by all
but 12 states.
Medicaid enrollment has gone up by nearly 4 million people
since March, but itís still unclear how many laid-off workers
are coping after the loss of employer coverage in the
Those who are healthy most likely have other priorities, such
as finding another job. Workers who were furloughed, but not
laid off, may have been able to keep their coverage. Some appear
to have switched to a spouseís plan, and those age 65 and older
can get on Medicare.
The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 80%
of those who lost workplace health insurance are eligible for
coverage under the law, either through the insurance markets or
Some private businesses, such as HealthSherpa.com, have
created a niche market helping people enroll in HealthCare.gov
plans. Former Obama administration officials are trying to
promote sign-ups through GetAmericaCovered.org. Community
organizations also play a role helping people with paperwork.
But, Dorn said, "a lot of people who need health insurance
may not know there this is there chance to sign up."