Do you have a body? I bet you do! And assuming you do, that means there’s a chance that one day you might get sick or injured. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have health insurance. So if you don’t get group insurance through work or through a spouse or some other means, this is the time of year for you to sign up for insurance on your own: Obamacare open enrollment begins Wednesday, November 1 at healthcare.gov. (See below for states that run their own exchanges).
And don’t go away if you’re one of the lucky ones who already has insurance!! Because this year, it’s more important than ever that we all pitch in to spread the word to anyone who might not be so lucky. That’s because Trump and his administration have been going out of their way to make the enrollment process more difficult this year. They’re making it less likely that people will sign up for insurance or even know that they have the opportunity to sign up. Trump is aided in this by a complicit Republican party which hopes that a poor enrollment season will help make the case for dismantling the law:
“Maybe this enrollment period will produce the kind of problems necessary to get everybody’s attention that we need to get our house in order, and do the work we need to do to get the program fixed,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
This is part of the broader Obamacare sabotage effort that I’ve told you about here in the past. Trump – along with his GOP compatriots – have engaged for years in a complex effort to undermine the functioning of Obamacare. And now Trump is trying to undermine the ability of people to even sign up. (Lower enrollment will, conveniently for Trump, also have the effect of undermining the functioning of the law itself, because the insurance markets work better when more people sign up. Fewer people means less chance of a balanced risk pool, and especially in cases where it’s difficult to sign up, the people who do sign up are likely to be the least healthy who are most determined to get health insurance no matter what).
Here are just some of the ways Trump is trying to ensure that fewer people sign up for Obamacare this season. He and his HHS have:
- drastically cut the budget for Obamacare outreach and advertising (slashing it by 90%), and there will be no television advertising at all
- significantly cut the budget for Obamacare “navigators” who act as enrollment counselors, helping people sign up for plans. These navigator groups were actually left with no funds at all for a 2 week period in September, forcing many of them to lay people off or even shut down
- cut the open enrollment period in half, from the 3 months that is was in previous years to just 6 weeks
- scheduled downtime on healthcare.gov (the site where customers browse and sign up for Obamacare plans), during which the site will be inaccessible for half the day every Sunday but one during the open enrollment period. This is obviously extraordinarily inconvenient, as weekends would normally be a popular time for many people to look for and purchase plans
- and, in addition to all of those specific steps, the constant cries from Trump that Obamacare is imploding, dead, gone; combined with the numerous GOP attempts to repeal the law, have led to a lot of confusion for the public, with many people actually unsure of whether Obamacare even still exists. These attacks have been especially damaging because they’ve been aided by official attacks from HHS (the agency which is supposed to be implementing Obamacare), which has been using taxpayer dollars to undermine the law.
So c’mon! Help me ruin Trump’s year by bucking his sabotage efforts and ensuring that everyone who needs health insurance will be able to get it. Spread the word that open enrollment begins November 1 and ends December 15, for those states that use healthcare.gov. For states that run their own exchanges, some have extended deadlines, which you can see on the list below (courtesy of Charles Gaba at ACAsignups.net). But DOUBLE CHECK those dates with your state website just to be sure. And note that even if your state has extended the enrollment deadline, in most cases, you must still sign up by December 15 if you want your coverage to begin on January 1, 2018.
And be sure to shop around: many plan premiums have increased – largely due to Trump’s sabotage – but not all plans are affected equally. And for those who receive subsidies, there are likely major deals to be found as long as you stay away from silver plans (thanks to some smart thinking and team work by the states and the insurance companies in response to Trump’s actions).
Here’s a helpful set of FAQ’s from the Kaiser Family Foundation for anyone who needs more information about finding and signing up for health insurance. Happy shopping!