Open Enrollment for ACA Registration Coverage Updated
Thursday, December 6th, 2018
Open enrollment, the once yearly free for all period to apply for coverage, in the Healthcare Insurance Marketplace is underway until December 15. For individuals and households not eligible for Medicaid but also not able to afford insurance on their own or access it through an employer plan, the marketplace is the only option for acquiring a qualified health plan due to income-based financial subsidies on plans purchased there.
The Affordable Care Act, which established the Health Insurance Marketplace (operated at the federal level for 34 states including Mississippi), also provided funding for marketing to raise awareness of the marketplace and providing direct assistance to consumers in choosing a plan and navigate the process on online enrollment. However, federal funding for the marketing and the Navigator program has decreased across the nation since 2016, down by 84 percent to date and a drop from $908,000 to $188,000 in Mississippi.
|Year||Number of Submitted Applications||Individuals Applying for Coverage on Submitted Applications||Individuals Determined Eligible to Enroll in an Exchange Plan||Individuals Determined Eligible to Enroll, with Financial Assistance||Individuals Determined or Assessed Eligible for Medicaid / CHIP by the Exchange||Federal Navigator Funding|
CMS.gov, Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics
Marketplace Open Enrollment Public Use Files
Gaps in knowledge about the law’s protections and new benefits as well as about the Marketplace may be keeping Mississippians from enjoying protections against health-related discrimination, health benefits available with no cost-sharing, and financial assistance. Poor understanding of health insurance and where to get it may contribute to some in Mississippi going uninsured. In a recent survey of Mississippians’ knowledge and attitudes about the ACA, three out of five respondents reported knowing nothing or only a little about the law itself, while the majority of the state is estimated to have basic or below basic understanding of health information including health insurance documents and insurance cost-sharing calculations. The American Institute for Research found that only one in five Americans could accurately calculate their out of pocket costs when using health insurance to cover their care.
These navigator programs assist individuals who have gone uninsured for long periods and others who have low health insurance literacy (often the sick, young, low-income, minority or less educated among us). Seventy-nine percent of navigator programs nationally report that consumers seek assistance because they lack confidence in their ability to apply on their own, while 77 percent believe consumers come to them because they need help understanding their plan choices, and 68 percent also believe that a limited understanding of the ACA leads consumers to use their services.
When asked what they knew about the Health Insurance Marketplace, 64 percent of Mississippians respondents, reported knowing little or nothing about it.
Some at the federal level have questioned the need for marketing and navigator assistance now that the ACA and the marketplace have survived rounds of major political and policy tests at the federal level. However, studies have shown that advertising can maintain and even increase enrollment in the marketplace, which in turn can stabilize costs for the broader pool of enrollees. For the past three coverage years, more than 90 percent of the 300,000-plus Mississippians purchasing plans through the marketplace have qualified for and received financial assistance for their healthcare coverage. Not only do most marketplace applicants in Mississippi qualify for financial assistance, some qualify for more substantial assistance. From 2016 through 2018, as many as 23,000 (or 8 percent of applicants) Mississippi marketplace applicants learned they were eligible for Medicaid or CHIP.
As funding for marketing and assistance programs has decreased in Mississippi, so have applications. Applications for coverage in the Mississippi marketplace are down by a third since 2016. However, assistance like the kind provided by navigator programs may continue to be important for Mississippians who have some of the lowest health literacy and health insurance literacy in the country.
For more information about what Mississippians know about the Affordable Care Act and how they feel about insurance, see the Center’s recent issue brief, Health Insurance Coverage, and the ACA: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors of Mississippi Adults.