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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 14, 2017

14,000 Iowans sign up for Obamacare

By Ed Tibbetts, Quad City Times | Nov 27, 2017

More than 14,000 Iowans had signed up for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace through the end of last week, according to new government data, exceeding the number who had done so last year at this time.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services released third week figures for signups on Wednesday, reporting that nearly 2.3 million Americans had selected plans.

Signups have been ahead of last year's pace. Last week, CMS reported that nearly 1.5 million people had selected ACA plans in the first two weeks of enrollment, which began Nov. 1. For a similar period the year before, it was just over 1 million.

Wednesday's release was the first glimpse at what has been happening in Iowa this year.

The report said that 14,284 Iowans had signed up in the first three weeks of this year's enrollment window, which has already surpassed the 12,099 who had done so in the first four weeks of last year's sign up period. Last year's figures were reported in two-week increments, making direct comparisons difficult. In addition, the Trump administration cut the enrollment period this year to just six weeks, half the three months that people were given last year.

Overall, 51,573 Iowans ended up selecting ACA plans last year.

Iowa's individual insurance marketplace has seen a great deal of turmoil this year, as all but one company, Medica, have left the marketplace. Also, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have sought to kill the ACA.

This summer, Iowa's insurance commissioner sought federal permission to revamp the ACA marketplace in the state with a temporary measure that officials said would stabilize the market. However, the state withdrew the plan late last month. One enrollment specialist in the Quad-Cities said she has seen an increase in interest in marketplace plans this year.

Linaka Kain, who oversees enrollment activities regionally at UnityPoint Health, said Tuesday that about 290 people had enrolled in plans in the Quad-Cities.

That is nearly three times what it was last year at this time.

However, nearly all the people who were helped qualified for tax credits, which bring down the cost of premiums. Because of how insurers and state regulators responded to the administration's elimination of government payments for cost-sharing subsidies last month, many people who qualify for the tax credits are seeing lower costs this year. That has even allowed some to afford higher value plans.

"This is the first year we've had so many people picking Gold plans," Kain said.

People who buy outside the marketplace or don't qualify for tax credits aren't having the same experience. They're seeing higher costs. Medica's average premium in Iowa is up about 57 percent over last year.

In proposing its stopgap measure to the Trump administration earlier this year, the state's insurance commissioner predicted that between 18,000 and 22,000 Iowans would lose health care coverage if the plan was not approved.

 

In Illinois, nearly 78,000 people had selected plans in the first three weeks of this year's enrollment window, according to the new data. In the first four weeks of last year's enrollment period about 68,200 had selected plans.

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