Health Care

Obamacare health plans now available to preview

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell talks about the upcoming health care exchange enrollment period at the Center for American Progress November 10, 2014, in Washington, DC.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell talks about the upcoming health care exchange enrollment period at the Center for American Progress November 10, 2014, in Washington, DC. Getty Images

Consumers can now preview the health plans available under the Affordable Care Act by logging onto healthcare.gov and answering a few questions about where they live and how much they make, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced.

Shoppers can use the website to compare monthly premium prices and benefits. They can also calculate how much financial assistance they can expect to receive to help pay for their insurance.

Fourteen insurers are offering coverage in Florida for 2015, up from 11 last year. Plans go on sale Saturday when open enrollment begins. The deadline for signing up for coverage is Feb. 15.

In a report released Monday, HHS also announced a national goal of between 9 and 9.9 million new and returning enrollees for 2015. Currently, 7.1 million people have insurance under the health law.

HHS expects 83 percent of them, or about 5.9 million people, to re-enroll, according to the report, as well as an additional 3.1 to 4 million new customers. That estimate only includes people who are expected to pay their premiums. (Some people sign up but never pay the premiums, and get no coverage.)

The Congressional Budget Office had earlier set a target of 13 million total enrollees for next year.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Monday at an event in Washington, D.C., that she expects 9.1 million customers to re-enroll or sign up for the first time.

“We actually have data,” said Burwell, explaining the difference between the projections of the two government agencies. “One of the predictions was that people would move from employer-based coverage to the marketplace. That’s been much lower than the prediction.”

“With regard to the numbers... we want it to be accurate, we want it to be analytically based and we want to move it as quickly as we can,” Burwell added.

Burwell also said the government has done five weeks of testing on this year’s healthcare.gov website as compared to 10 days last time around. Consumers waited for weeks and even months to obtain coverage last year as the website repeatedly crashed.

Florida led the nation in 2014 with about 980,000 people who signed up during open enrollment. That number had fallen to about 762,000 by June as people stopped paying their premiums or found coverage through new jobs, state regulators said.

The average premium in Florida last year was $68, counting tax credits. About 91 percent of enrollees received financial assistance.

People who signed up last year will be automatically re-enrolled in their old plans unless they select a new one or choose to drop their coverage.

Consumer advocates recommend that those who enrolled last year should shop around on the website for the best deal on the 2015 marketplace — last year’s plans may have risen in price or changed their benefits.

Advocates also say that both new and returning customers should seek in-person assistance from “navigators,” individuals or organizations that received a grant from the federal government to help sign people up for coverage.

Consumers can find assistance in their area by visiting localhelp.healthcare.gov or calling 1-800-318-2596.

This article was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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