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Auto-renewal for ACA exchanges may not be simple after all

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Josh Hammerquist
Uninsurance rate continues to decline nationwide
Uninsurance rate continues to decline nationwide

Government officials tried to build a feature into the Healthcare.gov website that would have allowed consumers to have a bit of an easier time when it comes to renewing their coverage through the government-run insurance exchanges. However, it now seems that this process won't be quite so simple as hoped, and could create many problems for the millions of Americans who were hoping for a quick transition.

A number of observers of the government's health insurance coverage system say that if people try to automatically renew the coverage they received this year for the 2015 calendar year, they might find that the information they receive about their financial aid is not up to date, or wholly inaccurate, according to a report from the Associated Press. There are many reasons why this could present a problem to those trying to obtain their same old coverage, not the least of which is the potential for sticker shock if people think they're going to have to pay significantly larger amounts for more or less the same plans. If that happens, they might choose to eschew going through the marketplaces altogether.

Why is this an issue?
The concept of extending financial aid to consumers was a big part of the "affordable" aspect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but the exact amounts people receive are supposed to be based on many factors, not just their income, the report said. For instance, it was supposed to be relative to prices of coverage options in their areas, and in general, it's believed that far more insurers will make their way onto the exchanges for 2015. But because the auto-enrolled people are set to receive the "exact dollar amount" they did last year, their benefits could vary considerably.

That's also true for those whose incomes have changed in the last year, the report said. People who made less in 2014 than 2013 are supposed to see their subsidies increase, while those who made more should see their aid drop, or their eligibility for the marketplaces go away altogether. But if they're not changing, that could be a big problem, at least initially.

For these reasons, health insurance companies might need to do more in the coming months to make sure that they can educate and meet the needs of consumers who might be affected by this issue before 2015 starts and they will be required to have coverage once again.

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