Guest Column: Last chance for open enrollment deadlines for ACA Marketplace health care coverage

Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families
Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families

The ninth year of the Affordable Care Act Marketplace Open Enrollment (OE9) began on November 1st and the data so far from the field is promising to put Florida once again in the country-wide lead for the numbers of enrolled consumers. The American Rescue Plan Act cost savings the policyholders saw in 2021 are being continued into 2022, which might give consumers an opportunity to move into a plan that may have been unaffordable in the past.

Coming after the most challenging year and a half that Floridians have faced in our public health care history, the Open Enrollment period offers an opportunity for consumers to shop around for the best and most affordable health care to cover themselves and their families for 2022. There are some dates coming up to be aware of for those who have not yet taken advantage of that opportunity. While OE9 officially ends at midnight on January 15th, if you need your 2022 health care policy to kick in on the traditional January 1st start date, you’ll need to choose a plan by no later than midnight on December 15th. Consumers who have current marketplace plans need to be aware that their existing policy will be rolled over automatically to the same or a comparable plan by their current insurance company as well for 2022.

As the Director for Florida Covering Kids and Families based at the University of South Florida in Tampa, I can tell you that our consortium of regional partners known as Covering Florida has beefed up the number of certified Marketplace Navigators from 60 last year to over 200 currently. Navigators are busy working throughout the state helping consumers sort through the new insurers, new policies being offered, updated rates and of course available cost subsidies. Navigators are trained to help consumers shop for their coverage options, including completing eligibility and enrollment forms and calculating financial information. Covering Florida Navigator services are confidential and free to consumers.

The ongoing challenge we have is getting the word out to all potential Florida consumers, and readers can help us by sharing this information with family, friends, and neighbors. Our teams are busy finding families who might not realize they qualify for low-cost or free premiums. Issues such as a lack of transportation, not speaking English or having little access to computers can also hinder families from being able to find health insurance. It’s crucial to get the word out to consumers that if you don’t have insurance and you think you won’t qualify or think it’s too expensive, come check it out. The help we provide is always unbiased and FREE to consumers.

The number of people enrolled in the Federal health insurance exchange in Florida topped 2.25 million in August, more than any other state. The American Rescue Plan has drastically cut marketplace health insurance costs and the enhanced tax credits will carry on into 2022, and with more providers and plans available in Florida this year, it is a really good idea for consumers to work with a Navigator on the best coverage options and costs available in their county. Once people learn about the credits, they tell friends who may not now have health insurance.

Marketplace plans automatically cover things like well-visits, prescriptions, mental health services and more. Covering Florida Navigators are standing by to assist individuals and families with coverage choices and guide those interested in enrolling through the application process. Free Appointments with a local Navigator can be made online through the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida website or by calling Covering Florida tollfree at 877-813-9115.

Let’s work together to help every Floridian #GetCovered in 2022.

Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, based at the University of South Florida Tampa

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Enrollment deadline for ACA Marketplace health care coverage ends soon