It turns out Kansas and Missouri didn’t meet last year’s Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers — but they came close.
After open enrollment ended Dec. 15, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released data showing that Kansas and Missouri had slightly exceeded last year’s totals of 98,780 and 244,382, respectively, for health insurance plans purchased through the ACA, which is commonly called Obamacare.
But the federal agency released new data this week that accounted for about 100,000 cancellations nationwide that occurred before plans went into effect Jan. 1, 2018. Those cancellations left Kansas at 98,238 enrollees and Missouri at 243,382, or less than 1 percent off last year’s figures.
Sheldon Weisgrau, who leads ACA enrollment efforts in Kansas, said that was still impressive, given that President Donald Trump’s administration cut the open enrollment period in half and sliced 90 percent of the ACA’s federal advertising budget.
“The message is still the same,” Weisgrau said. “There was half the amount of time to sign up there were lots and lots of obstacles put up by the administration. Even coming close to last year’s number is a testament to how many people value being able to buy insurance.”
Nancy Kelly, Weisgrau’s counterpart in Missouri, said the same was true for her state.
Kelly, who works for the Missouri Foundation for Health, said navigators who help people sign up for ACA plans were “enormously busy” during the shortened enrollment period.
“People were very motivated,” Kelly said. “It also tells me that even though we didn’t have an enormous number of insurers, people were finding coverage they liked at prices they found acceptable.”
Weisgrau said people cancel plans for a variety of reasons. In past years, the most common reasons have been that they either decided the premiums were too expensive or they got coverage another way, like from an employer.
With the nation experiencing steady job growth, Weisgrau said it’s possible a good portion of the 100,000 who canceled did so because they got an employer-based plan after choosing their ACA plan.
But this year he said it’s also possible that some people dropped their coverage entirely because they heard that the tax bill passed by Republicans last month eliminated the individual mandate that every American carry insurance.
Weisgrau said he hoped that’s not the case, because that provision doesn’t take effect until after 2018. That means people who choose not to carry insurance this year could be subject to a tax penalty unless the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t enforce the mandate.
“So far they have actually enforced it, so those folks are going to end up paying fines,” Weisgrau said. “But it’s not even the fines that are the worst part. If they get sick or are in an accident and need health coverage they’re going to be out of luck.”