Yes, Obamacare Is Still the Law, but Expect Big Changes for Open Enrollment

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While there’s been tons of clamor around the GOP’s attempts to pass a new health care bill, the latest reform bill is dead. This means the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, is still in effect and gearing up for another enrollment period.

However, the Trump administration has slashed funds for the open enrollment process, meaning big changes are on the way for those who will sign up for coverage in 2018.

No matter what end of the political spectrum you fall on, these changes will affect you if you get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

5 Key Changes Ahead for Obamacare Enrollment

Here’s what you need to know about how Obamacare enrollment will change this year:

1. The Enrollment Period Is Shorter

This year’s open enrollment period begins Nov. 1, and runs through Dec.15, 2017, a total of 45 days, according to Obamacare enrollment website Healthcare.gov. In previous years, open enrollment lasted three months.

In the past, enrollees have often waited until the last minute to select their coverage. CNN Money reports that last year’s Dec. 15 application deadline for securing  insurance by Jan. 1, 2017, was extended by four days due to a rush of applications.

What does this mean for you? Considering the enrollment period is shorter this year — and the website crashed in 2013 after its debut — you might want to enroll sooner rather than later to avoid headaches and slow load times.

2. There Are Scheduled Shutdowns for Maintenance

The Washington Examiner reports that Healthcare.gov will be shut down for 12 hours during all but one Sunday throughout the enrollment period.

The downtime will take place from midnight to noon Eastern Standard Time every Sunday except Dec. 10.

Additionally, there will be an overnight outage on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

What does this mean for you? If you’re planning on signing up during the weekend, be sure to keep these blackouts in mind and plan accordingly.  

3. Funds Have Been Cut for Enrollment Groups

Groups known as “navigators” that assist with enrollment under Obamacare have had their funding cut by as much as 92%, according to The Washington Post.

Navigators have given a wide variety of assistance in the past, including educating individuals about the plans best suited for their needs, walking people through the enrollment process and informing communities about how to obtain coverage under the law.

According to Reuters, navigators are often the main source of information for immigrants and rural communities “who are just learning about the need for health insurance and how to use the benefits once they have them.”

What does this mean for you? Lower funds mean fewer resources. If you haven’t signed up through the system in the past, there may be fewer opportunities to get help, leaving you to figure out the details by yourself. You might also be faced with determining how to use your benefits on your own.

4. Enrollment Events in Communities Might End

In the past, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) worked with enrollment groups to develop outreach and education plans for the Latino community. This support included providing materials in Spanish.  

Luis Torres, policy director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, told Talking Points Memo that collaboration has come to a sudden halt.

Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, said an HHS official told him the department “wouldn’t be doing any Obamacare marketplace events in the South this year,” Vox reported.

What does this mean for you? You might be on your own when it comes to enrolling. Additionally, if you or your family don’t have strong English-speaking skills, enrolling could be difficult.

5. You’ll See Open Enrollment Advertised Less

The Trump administration announced it would cut the Obamacare advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million.

While the administration says advertising is inefficient, a study conducted by HHS found that advertising was responsible for 37% of new enrollments, HuffPost reported.

What does this mean for you? You’ll need to be diligent in educating yourself about enrollment dates, blackout dates, etc. It’s likely that the reduced funding means there will be fewer reminders for you.

Kelly Anne Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

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