Op-Ed: What does NJ’s new health care marketplace mean for you?

Laura Waddell | November 16, 2020 | Coronavirus in NJ, Opinion
The state’s newly launched online health insurance marketplace has open enrollment through Jan. 31
Laura Waddell

The 2021 health insurance open-enrollment period began as it has in past years on Nov. 1. Unlike past years, however, New Jerseyans will now enroll in the state’s newly launched online marketplace — GetCovered.NJ.gov — that replaces the federal HealthCare.gov site.

This is more than just a cosmetic change, and there are a few important differences between the two marketplaces that New Jerseyans should be aware of. Easy access to affordable health care is always important, but especially now as the COVID-19 crisis continues and cases are rising.

Open enrollment now runs through the end of January: The Trump administration limited the open enrollment to just 45 days. By setting up its own exchange, New Jersey has more say over its timeline. Open enrollment in New Jersey will be 90 days and will continue through Jan. 31.

Health insurance is more affordable than ever: In addition to the federal subsidies available to marketplace enrollees, New Jerseyans who qualify now also have access to state subsidies. Approximately eight in 10 enrollees qualify for and receive some form of financial assistance. Individuals who qualify for state subsidies can receive up to $578 per individual and $2,313 for a family of four. As a result, net premiums this year are lower than ever — as low as $117 per month after subsidies. And it is easy to qualify: Individuals making up to $51,040 annually, or a family of four up to $104,800, are eligible for savings.

Getting help with enrollment is easier than ever: New Jersey enlisted 16 navigator agencies and their staff for free enrollment assistance in multiple languages. Federal funding for assistance has seen significant cuts over the past few years, so the state has stepped up to replace and improve on those lost services. Enter your ZIP code to find free local assistance near you.

Establishing New Jersey’s own health insurance marketplace was an important step in expanding access to healthcare, but how does this news affect your situation?

If you are on COBRA, now is a better time than ever to look for a more affordable plan. The economic impact of the coronavirus has seen hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans lose their jobs, many of whom are relying on COBRA to maintain health coverage. However, this can be prohibitively expensive. With the new state subsidies you may find identical or better coverage for a much lower cost.

If you have a preexisting plan with the federal marketplace, your plan has already been transferred to the New Jersey system. You will or have already received a letter from HealthCare.gov and your insurer about the change. Nevertheless, it is still worth your time to visit GetCovered.NJ.gov to see if you qualify for new plans or financial assistance, especially if your income has changed.

If you are uninsured, whether due to job loss or financial instability, health coverage may now be within your reach thanks to the new state subsidies. Check GetCovered.NJ.gov and see what you qualify for. With COVID-19 cases rising in New Jersey and across the country, it is increasingly risky to go without insurance.

If you are insured through your employer, you are largely unaffected. The exception is if you pay more than 9.83% of your income for individual coverage after employer contributions. In that case you, and your family can apply for coverage in the marketplace. With the new subsidies, there’s little reason not to see what is available at GetCovered.NJ.gov.

As we head into the colder months and what is increasingly looking like a new coronavirus wave, New Jersey residents need all the resources at their disposal to protect themselves and their families. Visit GetCovered.NJ.gov and speak with an enrollment navigator to see what plans and savings you qualify for.