It has been a year since the first open enrollment for individual health insurance. The second open enrollment starts in just over a month. This year, consumers can expect new deadlines, prices, and application processes. Here are some of the changes consumers will see for open enrollment 2015.
A Shorter Open Enrollment Season with More Enrollees
Last year, the Congressional Budget Office originally predicted that 6 million Americans would enroll in individual health insurance through the Marketplace in 2014. After open enrollment ended in March, the official enrollment count was 8,019,763 in April.
The CBO estimates over twice as many Americans will enroll in coverage as they predicted last year. They projected that 13 million consumers will enroll in Marketplace coverage in 2015. While last year’s enrollments were spread over a six month period of time, this year’s open enrollment will only run from November 15th to February 15th.
A Streamlined Process for Most Enrollees
To help make open enrollment 2015 go as smoothly as possible, Healthcare.gov has been working on their online enrollment process. While all applicants will be required to answer some screening questions, about 70 percent of applicants are expected to be re-directed to a shorter, updated application. The remaining 30 percent with “more complicated household scenarios” will use the traditional Marketplace application.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the applicants who are re-directed to the streamlined version of the online Marketplace application can expect to experience:
Fewer screens to navigate
An application optimized for mobile users
An updated look and feel
A shorter, smoother, simpler user experience
A Month to Shop Around
As open enrollment 2015 approaches, any current Marketplace enrollees will have one month (from November 15th to December 15th) to evaluate their current individual health insurance plan and see whether there are any plans available on the Marketplace that better fit their needs.
Consumers who enrolled in coverage last year will automatically be re-enrolled in their plan on December 15, 2014 with coverage starting on January 1, 2015. Consumers will receive a notification in the mail from the Marketplace, as well as notification from their insurer about their 2015 premium and premium tax credit.
Any enrollees who have already purchased a Marketplace policy, should weigh their health insurance options before allowing their policy to auto-enroll. This is vital to ensure that they are getting the best deal on health insurance. Since more insurers are selling policies in the Marketplace this year, this will affect rates. Current enrollees should ensure that they are still getting a good deal for their premium dollars.
2014’s premium tax credits were based upon rates of the second lowest cost silver plans on the Marketplace. Since last year’s second lowest cost plan probably won't be the same this year, current enrolles’ premiums could go up while their premium tax credit amount stays the same.
Since the premium tax credits are based on household income, family size, and region, enrollees should also report any changes to ensure that their 2015 premium tax credit estimate is accurate.