Health

Affordable Care Act enrollment to reopen this month

Iowa saw increase in sign-ups this year, likely because of pandemic

Karen Wielert, a health care marketplace Navigator through Planned Parenthood teaches a seminar on understanding the Aff
Karen Wielert, a health care marketplace Navigator through Planned Parenthood teaches a seminar on understanding the Affordable Care Act at the Iowa City Public Library on Saturday, November 15, 2014. Open enrollment in the healthcare marketplace opened Saturday and continues through February 15, 2015. (Justin Torner/Freelance for the Gazette)

Iowans will have another opportunity to sign up for health care coverage through the federal marketplace later this month.

Late last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order expanding access to the Affordable Care Act by opening a special enrollment period for Americans to sign up for individual health insurance coverage through the federal marketplace.

The enrollment period will be open Feb. 15 through May 15.

“The Iowa Insurance Division encourages any Iowans who need health coverage to look at the options available on healthcare.gov during the upcoming ACA special enrollment period,” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said.

It’s hard to predict who may take advantage of this enrollment period, Ommen said. Individuals would already qualify for ACA enrollment any time of the year in the event of job loss and other life-changing circumstances.

Ommen guessed those who are most likely to take advantage are those who planned to sign up through the individual market, but didn’t enroll during the initial signup period.

More than 59,200 Iowans enrolled in the individual marketplace during open enrollment late last year, according to the Iowa Insurance Division.

Enrollment increased from the year before, when nearly 54,600 Iowans signed up for individual health coverage, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The number has been steadily increasing since 2014, when roughly 29,000 Iowans had enrolled for individual health insurance. A number of factors either directly or indirectly related to the COVID-19 pandemic may have driven even more people to buy health insurance who otherwise wouldn’t.

Job loss may have contributed to the increased enrollment nationwide this year, but may not have been as big a driving factor in Iowa. Ommen said Iowa’s employment rate, while not as good as it was before COVID-19, is not as low as other states’ rates nationwide.

Instead, the risks posed by the virus may have increased awareness among consumers about the importance of health insurance.

Ommen said younger, healthier individuals who typically would go uninsured may have opted to enroll after seeing the pandemic’s impact.

“This increase in enrollment could be due to the recognition that hospitalization is not inexpensive,” Ommen said.

Other industries have seen similar trends. Life insurance companies nationwide have reported double-digit increases in the number of policies sold during the pandemic when compared to last year, particularly among younger consumers.

Northwestern Mutual, the nation’s largest life insurance seller, saw a 15 percent increase in policies sold during the pandemic relative to the previous year, CNBC reported.

Iowans interested in signing up for individual health coverage can call 1-800-318-2596 or visit healthcare.gov.

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Iowa Navigator, the state’s only insurance navigator, also is available for free to aid residents as they enroll for coverage. Call (515) 978-9570 to reserve a telephone appointment for enrollment assistance. More information also is available at www.acanavigator.com.

Residents also can find insurance agents and others who can assist with enrollment by visiting https://localhelp.HealthCare.gov/.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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