Over the past several years, the number of people buying health insurance coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's mandated exchanges has risen sharply, with millions getting involved. However, some issues on these marketplaces, such as rising prices and dwindling competition, have led a loud minority of previous shoppers to simply go without coverage for 2017.
Some were already feeling the frustration of paying thousands of dollars a year for health insurance with sizable deductibles that made care difficult or even financially impossible to obtain, according to a report from CNNMoney. But now that the start of President-Elect Donald Trump's administration is looming, many are opting to go without coverage simply because they don't know if they're going to be legally required to do so as they have been under President Barack Obama.
"Some people may ask: If it's going to be dismantled, why sign up?," Doreena Wong, a project director at the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told the network.
What's the impact?
Right now, it's difficult to say just how consequential the combination of rising prices and uncertainty of the exchanges will be on sign-ups, the report said. Open enrollment only began at the start of November, and data suggests it doesn't really get going in earnest until later in the year and even into the start of the next one. However, anecdotal evidence currently shows a surprising impact on early sign-ups, which are typically sparse to begin with.
In the first two weeks or so of open enrollment, about 1 million people signed up, and more than 10 percent of that number came on the day after the election, the report said. During the same period last year, that number was closer to 53,000.
"Every single [enrollee] has brought up the election and has expressed concern about signing up," Weiyu Zhang, a health educator and enrollment counselor at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told the network. "What we know is that changes will not happen immediately, and if they want coverage in 2017, they should sign up."
Costs can be concerning
Even if the ACA has a relatively uncertain future, many Americans will likely find the cost of coverage to be high either way, according to The New York Times. This year, nearly 1 in 3 workers across the country who received health insurance through their employers had a high-deductible insurance plan, and more than half of them had deductibles of more than $1,000. Likewise, 2 in 3 had to deal with co-pays, and 1 in 4 also had co-insurance. In all, about 20 percent of workers had plans that would require out-of-pocket maximums of at least $6,000.
With this in mind, it's important to note that regardless of whether people buy insurance for themselves via the exchanges, or get it through an employer, the cost of coverage typically stretches into the thousands of dollars, the report said. That can be difficult for many people to manage, especially if they have chronic conditions that require a lot of care. For those people, simply going without coverage is a difficult decision to make as well.
For all these reasons, it's crucial for health insurers and brokers to do more to reach out to consumers and talk to them about the ways their coverage benefits them, and what they can do to maximize that value for themselves without breaking the bank. When people have a better understanding of what they're paying for with their health insurance, they tend to be more satisfied with their coverage.