Affordable Care Act provisions are still intact, open enrollment ends today

By Ashley Frevert, field navigator, Northeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership, Inc., Pender, Neb.

As I sit and write my second blog post (see the first here), I think about all that has happened since my previous post. Open Enrollment for plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace is coming to a close, and the deadline to enroll is 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2017. Social media, television and printed press has been flooded with news about the new administration and what’s in store for our nation over the next several years. We’ve had the inauguration ceremony, and our new President has been sworn into office.

Indeed, there are new plans in the works that will affect nearly every individual across the United States. Many seem to be on their toes with their eyes and ears searching for answers to their questions about the future of the Affordable Care Act. Aside from all of this, I’m going to tell you what Nebraskans need to know about the work in-person assisters have done throughout this open enrollment period.

Let’s take a look at the beginning of the fourth Open Enrollment Period, starting on Nov. 1, 2016. Across the state of Nebraska, 16 organizations worked to enroll individuals and families in health insurance plans through the Marketplace and Medicaid. These organizations performed outreach and education, and many employed in-person assisters such as certified application counselors and navigators.

According to a report on Jan. 19 from Enroll Nebraska, a coalition lead by Nebraska Appleseed, 2,204 Nebraskans were enrolled in the first 45 days of open enrollment with the help of these assisters. That’s just a one piece of the puzzle. Add in the consumers who either enrolled themselves or sought assistance from an agent or broker, and you have a total of 86,711 individuals enrolled. That’s 8 percent higher than last year at this time, and we haven’t even finished Open Enrollment. Now, that’s incredible.

Enroll America, a nationwide coalition, reported that Nebraska’s uninsured population has significantly decreased. In 2013, we had an uninsured rate of 14 percent, and the uninsured rate dropped to 7 percent in 2016. You can view this report at www.enrollamerica.org. The numbers speak for themselves, but it’s nothing short of amazing.

Let’s look at the big picture. As of right now, we know that the Affordable Care Act will look different in the coming months. President Trump has signed an executive order which influences financial aspects of the health care law. However, both he and his advisors have stated they do not wish for anyone to lose their health coverage during this transition.

The Affordable Care Act is a law. The provisions are still intact, and enrollment in health plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace is ongoing. Health coverage is just as important now as it was before the Affordable Care Act was passed. There is no current legislation that will remove in-person assistance immediately, but we do know there will be changes. Navigators continue to be available to help educate, apply and enroll.

So, as a request from this navigator to you, stay informed and educated. Ask questions and gather as much information as possible about the future of health care in America. Be cautious about what you see and hear on social media or television, and think critically about what you read in the newspaper or magazines. And as a last request, never stop talking about the issues that affect you, your family and your friends.