ACA signups in Georgia swell as feds offer more assistance

Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act 2022 health insurance plans, also known as Obamacare, is underway until January 15.  To enroll for coverage beginning January 1, 2022, shoppers must enroll by December 15.  For enrollments completed after that, coverage will begin February 1.

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Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act 2022 health insurance plans, also known as Obamacare, is underway until January 15. To enroll for coverage beginning January 1, 2022, shoppers must enroll by December 15. For enrollments completed after that, coverage will begin February 1.

Premium prices on Georgia ACA exchange among nation’s lowest

More good news came recently for shoppers on Georgia’s Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange marketplace, as a personal finance website ranked the state’s premiums among the lowest in the nation.

Open enrollment for ACA plans in Georgia is happening now, and lower prices are one of the factors making the marketplace popular this year. As policy options multiply and consumers swell the market, some agents have advice for people interested in signing up: Shop now.

While plans can be selected any time until Jan. 15, the coming days are the best time to avoid the crowds and more easily reach phone bank advisers.

There are always crunch periods during open enrollment, said Melissa Camp, who works with Macon-based InsureGA to help people across Georgia sign up. A big rush usually comes at the last minute.

“Last year on the date open enrollment ended I was enrolling somebody that called at 11:30 at night,” Camp said, noting that enrollment technically closed at midnight. “But we got them in.”

Camp said her pace of signups so far is running about the same as last year, even though the enrollment period will be stretched out from 45 days last year to 2 1/2 months this year. “We have a bunch of new companies in Georgia, so it takes a little longer to look at the plans this year,” she said.

Options for Georgia buyers have ballooned to 11 plans statewide, though the metro areas have the most options. Still, every area of the state has plans available.

And they are cheaper this year, with premiums among the lowest in the nation.

There are many ways to crunch the numbers, and the only way to know a person’s final price after subsidies are included is to take income and family situation into account. For millions across the nation, subsidies can lower premiums enough to make their health coverage free. High-income shoppers are a smaller percentage of ACA clients, but they often have hefty deductibles and high premiums.

That said, the personal finance company ValuePenguin on Wednesday ranked Georgia’s prices the lowest of all states’. ValuePenguin is a website that provides comparisons for consumers shopping for products such as insurance. It’s owned by LendingTree, which makes money from banks as it helps consumers compare mortgage offers.

Rankings at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit with years of experience focusing on ACA research, found Georgia’s plans 16th lowest among states, or in the bottom 10, depending on which level of plans they looked at.

The expanded insurance choices and more affordable plans add to improvements in shopping that the Biden administration already made this year. The federal government has funded more enrollment assistance and opened up new windows to buy insurance throughout the past year because of the ongoing pandemic. That’s especially important when it comes to explaining plan attributes like networks: Each plan only insures coverage with a specific list of doctors and hospitals, called a network.

For the coming year, the Biden administration has expanded the enrollment period for 2022 insurance plans to Nov. 1-Jan. 15. For insurance that begins Jan. 1, the shopper must select a plan by Dec. 15. But if they miss that deadline, the shopper can still select a plan by Jan. 15, 2022 and the coverage will begin Feb. 1.

The administration has also poured more money into assistance resources, such as “navigators” who help shoppers understand the plans available to them.

Below are navigators and other resources where people can find help shopping for ACA plans.

RESOURCES

Healthcare.gov

1-800-318-2596

TTY: 1-855-889-4325

This is the main federal shopping website for ACA plans. It allows you to input your expected income level, family size and ZIP code, and then gives you plans and prices you’re eligible for. It presents them together in order to contrast and compare. It allows shoppers to check if their doctor or hospital is currently in the plan’s coverage network.

Healthsherpa.com

1-440-231-0041

This is a privately run website that does most of the things Healthcare.gov does. Some agents and shoppers say it’s easier to use.

InsureGA.org

1-866-988-8246

Insure Georgia was originally a navigator organization, but lost all that funding under the Trump administration. It is now registered as a nonprofit insurance agent, and continues helping people sign up for ACA plans. It’s based in Macon and helps people across the state.

NAVIGATORS

Navigators not only help people sign up for ACA plans, but can help a person understand if they’re eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. The funding numbers reflects the federal dollars spent to ensure each navigator is staffed and ready to answer consumer’s calls.

The Georgia Association for Primary Health Care (GAPHC)

1-844-442-7421

Federal navigator funding: $1.9 million

Works statewide. A network of clinics, this group pledged to focus on underserved populations across the state and those with restricted access to insurance, and to host public forums and health fairs and air radio ads.

Georgia Legal Services Program (Georgia ENROLL)

1-866-442-3676

Federal navigator funding: $388,248

Works in the 45 rural Georgia counties with the highest uninsured rates. The organization has experience helping people navigate legal difficulties with Medicaid, and is targeting vulnerable populations for assistance.

St. Joseph’s Mercy Care Services

678-843-8527

Federal navigator funding: $206,722

Working in DeKalb and Fulton counties. Assisting people experiencing homelessness, marginally housed, and low-income individuals.