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Virginia congressional delegation urges extension in ACA enrollment

healthcareMembers of the Virginia delegation led by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Congressman Tom Garrett (VA-5) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Eric Hargan asking him to extend the open enrollment period for consumers buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act individual market in light of premium increases in Charlottesville and across Virginia.

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration announced that the open enrollment period would be cut in half. Last week, Kaine, Warner and Garrett met with families from Charlottesville facing large premiums increases who expressed support for an extended open enrollment period. Last month, a Kaiser Family Foundation review found that Albermarle County will have the largest increase in premiums in the country.

“We write to ask that you extend the open enrollment period for consumers seeking health insurance through the individual Marketplaces until January 31, 2018. This extension will allow consumers to take into account the effects of any possible market stabilization legislation on their premiums before making any coverage decisions for themselves and their families,” the letter said.

The delegation highlighted other factors causing instability in the marketplace that have added to the premium increases and pain felt by Virginia familiesA longer open enrollment period would give Congress the necessary time to pass bipartisan market stabilization measures. These proposals could help reduce the cost of insurance by impacting the medical loss ratio calculation from insurers at the end of the year or including provisions for potential rebates. These bills, however, would not change base premium rates.

“There are multiple bipartisan legislative proposals meant to address these issues, along with several that have yet to be introduced. The shortened open enrollment period means it is unlikely these proposals will be taken into consideration before enrollment closes on December 15th.  Families deserve to know how much these programs will affect their premiums before they decide which insurance policy to purchase. Lowered premiums through rebates could encourage more individuals to purchase insurance or select a more comprehensive plan,” the letter continued.

Warner and Kaine also mentioned that a shortened open enrollment period limits the amount of information many individuals set to be automatically reenrolled in their current plans have.

The delegation concluded, “An extended enrollment period will allow these families to take these factors into consideration as they make decisions on which coverage to select for themselves and their families.”

Virginia Delegation members signing the letter also include U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (VA-3), A. Donald McEachin (VA-4), Don Beyer (VA-8), Barbara Comstock (VA-10), and Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11).

 

The letter

Dear Acting Secretary Hargan:

We write to ask that you extend the open enrollment period for consumers seeking health insurance through the individual Marketplaces until January 31, 2018. This extension will allow consumers to take into account the effects of any possible market stabilization legislation on their premiums before making any coverage decisions for themselves and their families.

Earlier this year your department announced that the open enrollment period would be from November 1st to December 15th. This window is significantly shorter than those in the past and comes at a time when many consumers across the country face substantial premium increases and a reduced number of choices for coverage. There is unprecedented volatility in the market stemming in part to substantial changes involving the Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments to insurers and now a possible repeal of the individual mandate.

Dramatic premium increases are causing overwhelming financial distress for our constituents. According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia are facing the largest premium increases in the country. Families who depend on the Affordable Care Act for their coverage will, in some cases, have their premiums triple next year.

Health insurance plans that were affordable just last year are now out of reach for those middle income families who are unable to rely on subsidies.

There are multiple bipartisan legislative proposals meant to address these issues, along with several that have yet to be introduced. The shortened open enrollment period means it is unlikely these proposals will be taken into consideration before enrollment closes on December 15th.  Families deserve to know how much these programs will affect their premiums before they decide which insurance policy to purchase. Lowered premiums through rebates could encourage more individuals to purchase insurance or select a more comprehensive plan.

The shortened enrollment period precludes many individuals currently set to be automatically reenrolled in their current plans on December 16th from making informed decisions in a changing marketplace. Given the ongoing volatility in the market, many of these individuals could be eligible for more comprehensive plans at the same or lower prices. An extended enrollment period will allow these families to take these factors into consideration as they make decisions on which coverage to select for themselves and their families.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

 
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