Health Care

Thousands may be about to miss out on free health insurance. They have until Saturday

Senate votes to begin debate on Obamacare repeal

The U.S. Senate voted 51-50 to start debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tiebreaking vote.
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The U.S. Senate voted 51-50 to start debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tiebreaking vote.

With a deadline to sign up looming, Affordable Care Act enrollment is down in Kansas and Missouri, despite a new analysis that says thousands of people in both states are eligible for free plans.

The analysis, published Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that about 57,000 uninsured Kansans and 116,000 uninsured Missourians are in the right income bracket to get a Bronze plan with $0 premiums after federal tax credits.

Bronze plans are the lowest level of coverage available on the subsidized insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Their average deductibles are about $6,000.

The authors of the Kaiser analysis said some of those consumers might be better off paying a small premium for a Silver plan. But they will miss out on 2019 coverage entirely if they don’t choose a plan by the time open enrollment ends Saturday.

The latest enrollment data, from Dec. 8, suggests thousands of people in Kansas and Missouri have yet to sign up on About 46,000 Kansans and 101,000 Missourians had chosen plans as of that date. That’s compared to about 98,000 Kansans and 243,000 Missourians who signed up last year and are now covered by 2018 Obamacare plans.

There’s usually a surge of enrollments right before the deadline.

But Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation said Wednesday on Twitter that enrollment nationwide is down about 12 percent from where it was this time last year. He offered several possible reasons:

Republicans repealed the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that required all Americans to buy insurance or face a tax penalty, which could lead more people to gamble on going uninsured.

The Trump administration cut the budget for advertising open enrollment and enrollment assistance considerably.

Unemployment rates continue to tick downward, meaning more people might have health coverage through their employer.

The Trump administration expanded access to short-term insurance plans sold outside of the Affordable Care Act markets that don’t have to cover as much as Obamacare plans.

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Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.