Donald Trump’s election and incoming House and Senate Republican majorities have millions of people who buy their health insurance on the individual market — as well as many uninsured people poised to buy a plan there — concerned about what may happen to that coverage. But the marketplace plans and the subsidies to help modest-income people afford them are still available and will likely remain so for some time.
Open enrollment — the annual period when people can newly enroll in a plan or change plans for 2017 — extends through Jan. 31. People who want their coverage to start Jan. 1 must sign up by Dec. 15.
Some good news came last Wednesday, when more than 100,000 people signed up for plans through the federally run marketplace — the largest influx of enrollees in a single day since enrollment started on Nov. 1.
Other people may be unsure of what to do amid news of Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the law that made the individual market more accessible for people with health conditions and provided subsidies to offset premiums and other cost-sharing charges to people who lack access to other coverage. It would be a mistake to miss the open enrollment deadline and lose the chance to get coverage. People should enroll now, so they can make sure they can obtain preventive benefits at no cost, get coverage of checkups and prescriptions, and protect themselves financially in case they face significant health care needs during the year. Those currently covered by a marketplace plan should visit healthcare.gov (or the marketplace in their state) during open enrollment to consider whether to keep the same plan or switch to one that may better meet their needs.
Whatever may happen to health reform will take time. Leaders of the effort to repeal the law have already said there should be a transition period to avoid disruption; an earlier repeal bill that President Obama vetoed would have kept subsidies for marketplace plans in place for two years. Many Republicans say they want to pass alternative health care proposals, and that could take them some time to figure out.
For consumers, coverage is available, but the open enrollment clock is ticking. People shouldn’t miss out on important benefits because they are confused or afraid.
Sarah Lueck is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities in Washington D.C.