Federal Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment Begins

By Briana Vannozzi

With two insurance companies to choose from, New Jersey consumers can officially begin shopping on the federal health insurance marketplace today.

“So we’re trying to gather and target the areas of the state where we know there’s high likelihood that you’re going to be uninsured or there’s just a lot of people in general. So we’re focusing on the northern counties because we know that’s just where massive amounts of New Jerseyans are,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Jackie Cornell.

Cornell helped open a new enrollment assistance office in Union City. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act only 8.7 percent of New Jerseyans are uninsured. It’s the lowest rate since officials began keeping those records.

“About a year ago we started with the enrollment. We had schools, the Board of Education partnered with the city and we enrolled thousands in school basements through nightly meetings basically and on Saturdays, and we saw the great need here,” said Union City Mayor Brian Stack.

“At this moment in time we have about 95,000 people that are still uninsured in Hudson County so that is a big turnaround that we need to get them all insured,” said New Jersey Hudson Enrollment Assistance Center Outreach Coordinator Elisa Carrero.

Trained assistants at offices in Clifton, Union City and Iselin will help consumers sign up and navigate their options — about 21 plans between Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and AmeriHealth New Jersey. Premiums are going up, but only by about 7 percent in New Jersey, compared to roughly 24 percent across the nation. The silver lining: tax credits are going up too.

“Subsidies will be rising and we know that we have 53 percent of New Jerseyans will be able to find a plan for $75 a month, between $75 and $100 a month. So when you think about that, it’s a pretty affordable option for many New Jerseyans,” Cornell said.

Consumers who don’t get health insurance this year will face a penalty of 2.5 percent of their household income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child to a maximum of $2,085. That’s something health officials want people to avoid, especially in diverse cities with English language learners who may be intimidated by the process.

“You have a very poor population. We push it every day as both my role as a mayor and state senator to get people enrolled so we’re very happy about this obviously,” Stack said.

Open enrollment runs now through Jan. 31. With less than 9 percent of New Jerseyans still without insurance, health department officials hope brick and mortars like this will ease any remaining doubts.