Posted by Anna Strong on October 1st 2013
Today is the big day! October 1, 2013 marks the date we've been waiting on for a long time here at AACF -Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Day.
As of this morning, more than 500,000 uninsured Arkansans will be able to start shopping for affordable, comprehensive health coverage in Arkansas's new Marketplace. Those who find themselves eligible for new coverage options through the Marketplace or the state's "Private Option" coverage can shop for plans that will start covering them on January 1, 2014. Families have the security of knowing that, going forward, the ACA prevents insurance companies from denying anyone coverage or charging anyone more for health insurance because of pre-existing conditions or past health issues.
Advocates are thrilled that, for the first time, full families will be able to enroll in coverage, with prices that make sense for families' pocketbooks. Depending on the family's income, the monthly premiums for private insurance may be paid by Medicaid or priced on a sliding scale with subsidies to make plans more affordable. As a family's income grows, so does its share of the costs of health insurance. This allows families to grow and prosper.
Most importantly, the state's remaining 46,000 uninsured children will now have options for coverage, including enrollment in ARKids First if they're already eligible. The Marketplace is a new option for those families with children who earn just above the income cut-off for ARKids First at 200 percent of the poverty level. Rates for children will be much more affordable than they have been in the private market for these families.
For example, an uninsured family of three earning about $40,000 (a 33-year old parent and two children) will receive tax credits to cover more than 60 percent of their monthly premiums for a "silver" plan. The family could purchase a high-quality silver plan for about $200/month, or a slightly riskier bronze plan for about $70/month. That's compared to the full cost of plans at $591/month. The ACA subsidies help tremendously with insurance affordability, which is important given that the child is just above the cutoff for ARKids First.
The same uninsured family of three earning about $25,000 will pay no monthly premiums: the parent can enroll in the state's Private Option plans, and the children qualify for ARKids First. This option is also thanks to the ACA and to Arkansas legislators who said "yes" to the ACA's option to cover low-income families.
With all these brand-new, exciting systems and options for coverage, though, we need to be prepared for bumps in the road. This is an opportunity to make our health care system work better for families by developing a seamless pathway to health coverage. However, there will likely be some IT hiccups or delays between the state and federal systems in the first few days as this new but complex system rolls out. Because protecting consumers' data is of utmost importance, we would rather keep our eye on the ball, troubleshoot IT glitches, and focus on getting families enrolled for coverage that begins January 1. We have six months of open enrollment, and today is just day one. Happy Open Enrollment Day, all!