Health Insurance Marketplace enrollment reaches record

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Enrollment in Delaware’s Health Insurance Marketplace for 2022 set an all-time high, increasing 26.8% over the open enrollment total for 2021.

The program, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, is designed for the self-employed, those between jobs, and others who do not have access to group coverage.

During Delaware’s ninth open enrollment period, which began on Nov. 1 ending on Jan. 15, 32,113 Delawareans enrolled for health insurance on HealthCare.gov. During the previous year, sign-ups during the open enrollment period totaled 25,320.

The program has been aided by a reinsurance provision that allows the insurer to cut rates and subsidies that lower premiums for many enrollees.

The Biden administration used American Rescue Plan Act funds to increase tax credits and expand subsidies further into the middle class. For instance, a family of four (both parents in their 40s) making $50,000 were eligible for a tax credit of roughly $16,500, compared with $14,300 previously. In addition, a sizable majority of enrollees on Delaware’s marketplace were eligible for financial assistance, which helps reduce the cost of monthly premiums and/or deductibles and lowers out-of-pocket health care costs.

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The Biden Administration also ended the Trump Administration’s decision to shorten the enrollment period and even extended the deadline into January.

Delawareans can choose from 13 health plans on the health insurance marketplace through Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware. So far, Delaware has not been able to attract a second insurer, unlike Pennsylvania and other larger states.

Two dental insurers – Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc. and Dominion Dental Services, Inc. – offer stand-alone dental plans on the marketplace. Monthly premiums for the 2022 health plans were about 3% higher on average than the 2021 plans due partly to increases in prescription costs and anticipation of elective procedures resuming after being postponed due to the pandemic.

The lack of elective procedures, even with the added medical costs from Covid-19, led to insurers having fewer payouts.

This year’s single-digit increase in premiums follows decreases in the previous two enrollment years, which saw rates drop by more than 19%. Federal subsidies cut consumer costs across the country by an average of 40%, reducing the impact of the increase.

“Delaware’s Health Insurance Marketplace has seen great success in reducing our uninsured population – but the fact is that the pandemic increased it due to loss of employer-provided coverage. With the federal subsidies expanding, the 2021 Special Enrollment Period, and an extended enrollment period for 2022 plans, we were able to reach many of those in need of comprehensive coverage at an affordable price,” said Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro. “It is my hope that Congress will not let the enhanced assistance expire at the end of the year so we can continue to serve those economically disadvantaged and middle-income families who have been hit hardest by the financial impacts of the pandemic.”

In June 2019, Governor John Carney signed enabling legislation to create a reinsurance program in Delaware, and in August 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) authorized the program

The program has lowered health insurance premiums for plans sold in the individual insurance market by partially reimbursing insurers for high-cost health care claims through a fund that uses a mix of federal funding and assessments collected by the Delaware Department of Insurance from health insurance carriers. Because the insurers’ claims costs are lower, the insurers can reduce the cost of premiums/.

With the end of open enrollment on the health insurance marketplace, Delawareans can enroll for coverage only if they experience a life event that qualifies them for a special enrollment period. Among the many qualifying life events are birth or adoption of a child, a permanent move, loss of other coverage through a job, and marriage or divorce.

In addition to the health insurance marketplace, some Delawareans might be eligible for coverage through Delaware’s expanded Medicaid program, open year-round. More than 10,000 Delawareans have received coverage under the Medicaid expansion. To be screened for eligibility or to apply for Medicaid benefits, go to Delaware ASSIST.

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