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December 11, 2018

Enrollments lagging as ACA deadline looms on Saturday

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, joined health care advocates and patients on Monday in urging Mainers to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act before the ACA's open enrollment deadline on Saturday.

The press conference at Greater Portland Health highlighted the resources available to Maine people as they navigate coverage options offered through the ACA Marketplace and emphasized the upcoming deadline.

Last week, Maine Insurance Commissioner Eric Cioppa expressed concern that Maine's enrollment numbers were down significantly compared to this time last year, based on reports from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Preliminary enrollment numbers comparing overall enrollment this year to the fourth week of enrollment last year, which was also Thanksgiving week, shows that cumulative sign-ups were down about 31% — 13,669 compared to 19,880 last year.

With the enrollment deadline looming on Saturday, Cioppa stated in a news release: "I am concerned that people in Maine who want to purchase major medical health insurance on the ACA's Individual Marketplace may not act in time to have coverage in 2019."

His office encouraged those wishing to sign up for coverage during the open enrollment period to log on to healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 for more information before Dec. 15. Mainers also can also call the Consumers for Affordable Health Care, toll-free, at 1-800-965-7476, or reach out to a local federally qualified health center to get more information.

Individual and small group rates

On its website, Maine Bureau of Insurance posted the final rates it approved for individual and small group filings, which benefited from the bureau's reintroduction of a successful state program that pooled high-risk individuals as a way to stabilize the individual health insurance market. The Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association program, or MGARA, is funded by reinsurance premiums paid by health insurers as well as by a per member per month assessment across all segments of the health insurance market.

Here are the individual rates showing average rate increases across all plans, by each insurer:

Individual

  • Anthem: Average rate, -4.3%; minimum, -15.9%; maximum, 3.0%
  • Community Health Options: Average rate, 0.9%; minimum, -2.52%; maximum, 3.66%.
  • Harvard HMO: Average rate, 2.1%; minimum, -4.4%; maximum, 3.6%.

Small group

  • Aetna Health: Average rate, 12.1%; minimum, 5.0%; maximum, 21.0%.
  • Aetna Life: Average rate, 7.0%; minimum, 0.0%; maximum, 8.1%.
  • Anthem: Average rate, 11.0%; minimum, 4.2%; maximum, 19.3%.
  • CHO: Average rate, 8.4%; minimum, 5.2%; maximum, 13.8%.
  • Harvard and HPHC: Average rate, 14.8%; minimum, 5.1%; maximum, 20.4%.
  • United Healthcare: Average rate, 2.2%; minimum, -8.5%; maximum, 13.2%.

Cioppa noted that Maine's success in relaunching the MGARA program for 2019, based on a federal Section 1332 Innovation Waiver, was good news for Mainers.

"This waiver and relaunch of the MGARA program kept rates from rising as much as they would have otherwise," he said. "In fact, some rates decreased for 2019. It also brought one insurer back onto the marketplace. Mainers have more options for 2019 and I hope they take advantage of them."

Still time to make marketplace comparisons

Both Cioppa and King encouraged Mainers to take the time to make comparisons between the plans. Those who don't qualify for subsidies are encouraged to use the bureau's rate calculator at www.maine.gov/insurance, which includes both marketplace and off-marketplace plans. Consumers also can contact the insurers directly to ask questions about covered services, providers, medications, and cost-sharing or to purchase unsubsidized plans.

"There are a wide range of options in the marketplace, and some may be less expensive than you think," King said. "This isn't about politics — it's about making sure you can protect your family from medical or financial trouble. With only a few days left, there's no time to wait."

Others attending Monday's event included included Kate Ende, consumer assistance program manager at Consumers for Affordable Healthcare; Kalie Hess, health equity program manager for the Maine Primary Care Association; Hillary Barter, health care navigator coordinator for Western Maine Community Action; and Nicole Manganelli of Portland, who recently signed up for ACA coverage.

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