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Op-Ed: Surge in Enrollment Demonstrates Continued Demand for ACA

The ACA is part of the fabric of American life, a lifeline that millions count on — open enrollment ends January 31

Frank Pallone
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone

The incoming presidential administration’s challenge to undo the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has led to a surge in enrollment in the days following the election. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the first two weeks of November saw over 1 million signups, 300,000 of which occurred in the three days following the election. In total, this represents more than a 5 percent jump over the same period last year. The message is clear: Americans have entrusted their health to the Affordable Care Act and do not want to revert to the old days.

Only 8.7 percent of people in New Jersey went uninsured in 2015, down from 13.2 percent in 2010. This record low uninsured rate is occurring because of access to marketplace plans and Medicaid expansion.

Because the ACA is part of the fabric of American life, a lifeline that millions count on, this open enrollment period is more important than ever. The time to sign up for coverage lasts until January 31, and the benefits of getting coverage are clear.

Coverage remains affordable. Recent headlines around double-digit premium increases nationwide are misleading. Here in New Jersey, benchmark rates are only increasing an average of 5 percent, one of the lowest rates in the country.

With an average of 19 plans to choose from, more than 71 percent of New Jersey consumers who selected a plan with subsidies could have selected a plan with a premium under $100 per month. And over 51 percent could have selected a plan with a premium of less than $50 per month.  

Besides, for many people, the penalty for not signing up is comparable to the cost of actually being covered. The penalty remains in place at 2.5 percent of one’s annual income or $695 per adult, whichever is higher.  

Previously, buying insurance individually was complicated, confusing, and prohibitively expensive. Real comparison shopping was all but impossible. But things have changed. Those who have already enrolled have opportunities to fine tune their plans and save even more by shopping around. New Jersey consumers who reenrolled in the health insurance marketplace last year and who switched to a plan with the same level of coverage saved $55 per month after tax credits, or $663 annually. 

Just as importantly, these options are all available regardless of medical history. Insurance companies can no longer discriminate by denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.

This is quality coverage. Young adults under age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plans. Hospital and outpatient services, prenatal care, lab tests, prescription drugs, preventive services including counseling, screenings, and vaccines to keep you healthy and care for managing a chronic disease are all covered.  

Everyone is just one split second away from a life-changing accident or diagnosis. Specialized care will be needed and bills will pile up. For hundreds of thousands in New Jersey, that reality can now be absorbed by their safeguard, the insurance card in their wallets. It’s making a real difference for hundreds of thousands all across the state. That is the reason my colleagues in Congress and I fought to deliver healthcare reform, and the reason we cannot go back. Now is the time to visit HealthCare.gov, or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY 1-855-889-4325) to learn about the plans in your area, see what financial assistance is available, and get covered.

Frank Pallone is the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District.

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