HEALTH

How is a shortened ACA open enrollment period affecting NJ?

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

At an Affordable Care Act enrollment center in downtown Newark, consumers are signing up for last-minute Obamacare plans, sliding in just before the Dec. 15 deadline. It’s one that may catch people by surprise, since the federal administration cut the enrollment period in half this year from 12 weeks to six.

“It was shorter, there was a lot more confusion, there was a lot of sabotage to keep people away,” said Maura Collinsgru, health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action.

The Trump administration did limit advertising and outreach this year, but as of last week there was a surge in enrollment numbers reported. More than a million consumers chose plans on the ACA as of Dec. 9 for the 38 states using Healthcare.gov. That includes nearly 139,000 New Jersey residents, which is less than half of the total from 2016. But that doesn’t include people automatically re-enrolled.

“So if people where in a plan last year, and that’s nearly 300,000. They could have the option to automatically re-enroll, so we won’t see actual numbers until the close of open enrollment period,” said Collinsgru.

She is concerned overall enrollment will be down.

“More people uninsured puts a greater strain on our health care system and wipes out a lot of the progress we’ve made over the last five years, so it’s very disheartening. The other threat we’re now facing is the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax plan, which as of yesterday looks like it’ll be included in the plan the GOP proposes,” said Collinsgru.

Hope was without insurance until Thursday.

“[If I didn’t get insurance here] I would have to pay out of pocket it would all be self-paid,” said Elizabeth resident Ricky Hope.

Sandra Hughes stopped by the enrollment center to get info for her goddaughter.

“It was great with Obamacare that we were able to extend the age to 26 because she was a student, so now she has to look for insurance,” Hughes said.

“We asked the Trump administration to extend the open enrollment period until January,” said Rep. Frank Pallone.

Thursday and Friday are expected to be the heaviest traffic times for enrollment. Because of that, there’s concern it could slow down the website or cause glitches. If that happens, New Jersey Citizen Action says it doesn’t mean the end, advising taking screen shots of your application and any error message to send in for an appeal.