Category: ACA and Policy, Cost of Healthcare, Government Programs, Health Insurance

Could This Be the Best Time for Health Insurance Ever?

It’s been my job to watch the health insurance market since I joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana in 2004, and it sure has changed a lot. A LOT!

Back in 2008, nearly 15% of us were uninsured. Nowadays, only 7 to 8% of us are uninsured. Today, around 40% of us in Louisiana have health insurance because we have a job or are related to someone who has a job. That employer-based health insurance market is not growing as a share of Louisiana’s insured population, but it is critical to paying for the costs of medicine in our state. That’s because this group has the highest provider reimbursement rates, and Louisiana’s hospitals and providers depend on these patients to balance out those from public health programs. I’ve written about that here.

About 35% of us are on Medicaid, a health insurance partnership between the federal government, the state government, and private insurance companies called Managed Care Organizations. Another 15% of us are on Medicare, health insurance that can be provided by the federal government directly, or through private insurance companies called Medicare Advantage carriers. These three are how 90% of the state’s residents get health insurance! But there’s more…

The individual health insurance market in Louisiana, via Healthcare.Gov, is for people under 65 years old who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid coverage or don’t get affordable coverage from their employers. Around 100,000 Louisianians are enrolled in this coverage today, roughly 2% of our residents. The good news is, changes to this market have come, and I expect LOTS more people to sign up in the coming months.

What’s New – and Better! – for Open Enrollment This Year

First, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA21) earlier this year, which made some important changes to the Healthcare.Gov individual marketplace:

  1. Federal subsidy levels are greatly increased. This means at all income levels, individual health insurance is the least expensive it’s been since 2014 for most applicants.
  2. Open enrollments have been lengthened. Normally, the Healthcare.Gov marketplace is only open for all applicants from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 each year. In 2021, Healthcare.Gov was wide open from March 1 through Aug. 15 for a rare Special Enrollment Period. The marketplace will re-open on Nov. 1, 2021 and stay open until Jan. 15, 2022! Another extended Open Enrollment Period is on the way!
  3. The federal employer standard of “affordability” for employee health insurance is being tightened. This means employed people will either get less-expensive insurance from their employers, OR they will have even more access to Healthcare.Gov plans with enhanced federal subsidies. Either way, it’s a boon for folks who want to buy on Healthcare.Gov. We should see this new standard kick in early next year.

It’s Time to Consider Your 2022 Plan Options

This is the busiest time of year in the health insurance world. The Healthcare.Gov Open Enrollment Period is looming, Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) starts on Oct. 7 and runs through Dec. 15  (more coming on this in Straight Talk soon!), and most employers  hold an annual open enrollment and benefit selection period for their employees in the fourth quarter of the year. All of these enrollment periods are rapidly approaching!

Straight Talk is, about 7-8% of our fellow Louisianians are still without health insurance, and the opportunities for them to get covered are the best they have ever been in Louisiana. If you or any family member is struggling right now to find affordable health insurance, has health conditions that need taking care of, or is just unsure what to do next, this is the BEST time to get it going.

I’d call 1-844-GET-BLUE (1-844-438-2583) if it were me! Start looking today!

Posted on: September 24, 2021

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