Open Enrollment Is Here but Healthcare Sign-Ups Have Dropped 13% Thanks to Trump

Will you have to pay a tax penalty if you opt out?
    • Enrollments on HealthCare.gov are down almost 12 percent from last year at the same time.
    • The end of the individual mandate, higher employment and a greatly reduced marketing budget are all likely contributing to fewer Americans using the exchange.
    • Open enrollment ends on Dec. 15, and anyone who wants to get insurance on the exchange or renew a plan there for 2019 needs to log on before then.

    Enrollments in Obamacare are down, compared with last year. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services revealed on Dec. 12 that around 934,000 people selected plans from HealthCare.gov during week six of open enrollment, totaling more than 4.1 million. That compared to 1.1 million and 4.7 million during the same period in 2017 made for a decrease of 13 and 11.7 percent, respectively.

    So why are enrollments down? A number of likely factors combined to cause the drops. The fact that the individual mandate was repealed as a part of the Republican tax cuts is likely playing a large role, as is the fact that the marketing budget for HealthCare.gov was slashed to just $10 million this year from $36 million last year and $63 million the year prior. However, record low unemployment could mean more people have health insurance through their job than last year.

    However, there’s always a big surge of enrollees as procrastinators rush in immediately before the deadline. It could just be that more people are straggling this year toward the Dec. 15 deadline. If you’re one of those people who’s waiting until the last few days to secure your 2019 health plan, these tips can help you get the right plan at the right price.

    Here’s a quick look at some key things to know before you sign up for health insurance.

    1. Open Enrollment Could Be Different in Your State

    Several states operate their own health insurance marketplaces, meaning you’ll need to visit those exchanges instead of HealthCare.gov. In these cases, your open enrollment period might not be the same. Fortunately, these states offer at least as much time, if not more, to make a decision.

    Here are some open enrollment periods that might differ from HealthCare.gov:

    • California: Oct. 15, 2018, to Jan. 15, 2019
    • Colorado: Nov. 1, 2018, to Jan. 15, 2019
    • Massachusetts: Nov. 1, 2018, to Jan. 23, 2019
    • Minnesota: Nov. 1, 2018, to Jan. 13, 2019
    • Rhode Island: Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018
    • Washington, D.C.: Nov. 1, 2018, to Jan. 31, 2019

    Note that you can continue to sign up for 2019 coverage in Washington, D.C. through the end of January, but the last day for plans with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2019 is Dec. 15.

    Learn: How to Find the Best (and Cheapest) Health Insurance

    2. You Won’t Get a Tax Penalty for Not Having Insurance

    The individual mandate — a tax penalty imposed on adults without qualifying coverage — has been eliminated for 2019 and beyond, so there’s no financial penalty for going without coverage this year, not counting the cost of getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket.

    3. Cheaper ‘Catastrophic’ Plans Are Available to Everyone This Year

    The so-called “catastrophic plans” — bare-bones plans with low premiums but limited coverage — are now available to anyone under the age of 30, along with those who qualify for a “hardship exemption.” There’s a variety of potential exemptions, including but not limited to being homeless, getting evicted or being the victim of a fire or flood.

    4. Premiums Might Be Lower This Year

    The average premium payment for plans on HealthCare.gov will fall by 1.5 percent this year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — marking the first year that premiums have dropped since the marketplace went into effect in 2014. In Tennessee, premiums are dropping by 26.2 percent.

    5. Open Enrollment Is Your One Chance to Make Changes to Your Plan

    The open enrollment period is your one chance to make changes. So, whether you want to simply renew your current plan or to change your coverage level or provider, be sure to do so before open enrollment is over or you’ll be stuck until 2020.

    Use These: 21 Hacks to Reduce Your Healthcare Costs This Year

    6. If You Make More Than $48,560 a Year, You’re Not Eligible for Subsidies

    The subsidies to help bear the costs of insurance premiums are based on the federal poverty level, and anyone making more than four times that won’t qualify for subsidies. That means — based on the 2018 FPL of $12,140 for individuals — you won’t qualify for financial aid if you’re making more than $48,560.

    That changes, though, depending on the size of your family. Here’s a table showing the poverty level and the income at which you’re no longer eligible depending on the size of your household:

    Income Threshold for Healthcare Subsidy Eligibility
    Size of HouseholdFederal Poverty LevelMaximum Income to Qualify
    1$12,140$48,560
    2$16,460$65,480
    3$20,780$83,120
    4$25,100$100,400
    5$29,420$117,680
    6$33,740$134,960
    7$38,060$152,240
    8$42,380$169,520

    Keep reading to see how an ER visit helped one person realize the value of health insurance.

    More on Health and Saving Money

    We make money easy. Get weekly email updates, including expert advice to help you Live Richer™.