NAvigating health insurance open enrollment for alaskans and their families runs through january 31
BY Jane straight
Shopping for health insurance can be complicated. Under the Affordable Care Act and with the advent of the HealthCare.gov Marketplace, specially trained and certified assistants called Navigators have been helping uninsured Americans enroll in health insurance.
Open enrollment for 2017 insurance coverage is currently underway. Alaskans without employer-provided insurance or other coverage can sign up for health plans that meet their needs at HealthCare.gov or by dialing 2-1-1 to find free local assistance from a Navigator. Health coverage can start February 1 for consumers who sign up by January 15.
Thanks in large part to the Marketplace, the share of Americans without health insurance is at its lowest level in history, and the share of Alaskans without health insurance is down 25 percent since 2010.
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act prevent people from being denied coverage because of a health condition and eliminate lifetime and annual limits. Coverage includes free preventive services, and premiums are not different for men and women. Eighty-six percent of current HealthCare.gov Marketplace consumers in Alaska are eligible for tax credits that bring down the cost of coverage, and about the same percentage of Marketplace-eligible uninsured Americans would also qualify for tax credits. In addition, an estimated 5,000 Alaskans who paid full price for health insurance in the off-Marketplace individual market in 2016 could be eligible for tax credits if they purchase 2017 coverage through the Marketplace.
Navigators assist consumers with completing the online HealthCare.gov Marketplace application. In-person assistance in Spanish is available by calling 2-1-1, and free telephone translation for other languages can also be arranged for any appointment with a Navigator.
Another part of the Affordable Care Act was the expansion of Medicaid to reach more people. Through September 2016, Medicaid expansion in Alaska had covered over 22,000 people. The State of Alaska works with the HealthCare.gov Marketplace so that the same online Marketplace application can be used for Medicaid enrollment, and Navigators are trained to assist with that as well.
Navigators can sit down with consumers to review plan options, as well as provide basic information on what health insurance is and how it works. Navigators help consumers select plans that align with their financial circumstances and health care needs.
Open Enrollment, which started November 1 and ends on January 31, provides an opportunity for Alaskans to find affordable coverage for themselves and their families.
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