Health And Human Services Proposes To Shorten ACA Sign-Up Period

Rule Change Intended To Keep Insurers In Marketplace
Disqus Comments
Adam Polák (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Trump administration proposed rules designed to stabilize the insurance market for those getting policies under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But critics say it could actually result in fewer people signing up for care under a law Republicans have promised to get rid of. 

Republicans have promised to repeal the ACA. In the meantime, they say they want to ensure people maintain coverage. But Jon Peacock with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families said this rule may do the opposite.

"This rule goes too far in helping insurers at the expense of consumers," Peacock said. "The proposal, if it's ultimately approved, would make it harder for people to sign up for marketplace insurance plans."

Peacock said it does two things that could reduce enrollment: Cuts the sign up period in half from 90 days to 45 days and requires those who try to sign up later because of special circumstances to prove they've, say, lost a job, moved or had other special situations.

Insurers have complained that some are signing up only when they need costly medical services and then dropping coverage after they've received care.

Coreen Dicus-Johnson, president and CEO of Network Health, said last month during a Wisconsin Health News forum that this fix is one way to ease regulations for insurers.

"We’ve got special enrollment periods here where people can pop in and pop out," she said. "That's a regulation."

Dicus-Johnson also said during the forum that insurers are trying to figure out whether to remain in the marketplace at a time when President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are at odds about whether to repeal or repair Obamacare.

"We have a very short timeline to figure out are we in or out," Dicus-Johnson said. "Because of the uncertainty it's going to make those decisions really hard."

But tightening up special enrollment periods and making other changes may not be enough to keep insurers in the market.

"Whether or not to remain on the exchanges is a business decision that our company will review over the course of the next few months," said Hannah Zillmer, Network Health spokeswoman, via email.

Network Health had no comment on the rule changes. The proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services did not address two big issues for insurers: continuing the requirement that consumers carry health insurance and maintaining federal government offer subsidies to help consumers pay for coverage.

Disqus Comments