Despite threats, residents urged to re-enroll in Obamacare (video)

It’s that time of year again. Time to choose a health insurance provider for 2017.

While there was a lot of talk about Obamacare during the election, and although President-elect Donald Trump’s platform calls for repealing the Affordable Care Act, no changes have been made as yet. Because of that, state health officials are encouraging consumers to continue enrolling and re-enrolling.

Open enrollment through the Marketplace started on November 1st and it ends January 31st. More than 13 million people across the country are expected to sign up for coverage for 2017.

With only two companies to pick from in Delaware, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna, choosing the right health insurance that fits your needs can be difficult. It’s especially challenging in for Delaware customers this year with dramatic rate increases. The individual rate under Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware is going up an average of 32.5 percent while the Aetna Health plan is going up 23.6 percent.

But Delawareans don’t have to go it alone. Help is available. “We have [a] class called Smart Choice Health Insurance that really helps people walk through the steps of trying to make a decision,” said Maria Pippidis, an educator for the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

Free Smart Choice classes are conducted around the state, including many libraries. The classes help consumers wade through some of the difficult medical terms like the difference between co-payment & co-insurance, in network and out of network. Instructors also explain how to know when a deductible is due and when it isn’t. “It’s partly terms, but then partly it’s also how does that really play out as I’m using my insurance policy,” Pippidis said.

Students are lead through a case study of a family of three to determine the out of pocket expenses, such as urgent care costs and prescription costs. Most consumers only consider the premium and deductible, Pippidis said.

Students also learn about the tax credits and premium subsidies available only if insurance is purchased through the marketplace, and they meet income eligibility. Those who aren’t eligible may consider purchasing from an independent insurance provider because there aren’t any cost incentives.

Health partners around the state can assist with enrollment too. “We have Westside Family Healthcare, as well as Chatman, LLC and these organizations receive federal funds and they have navigators out in the communities. They do outreach and they’re able to enroll consumers as well as give them guidance and answer questions and help them even after the enrollment period ends,” said Laura Howard, Executive Director of Delaware Healthcare Commission.

Consumers need to enroll or re-enroll by December 15th to have coverage start on January 1st. To find a Smart Choice Insurance class or schedule one, log onto extension.udel.edu.

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