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October 2015 St@teside

Gearing up for the 2016 Open Enrollment Period

November 1, 2015 marks the beginning of the third open enrollment period (OEP) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which runs until January 31, 2016. Over the past several years, the state of coverage has continued to evolve as states improve and hone their health insurance marketplaces, and more states join the ranks of those that have expanded Medicaid. As a result of these efforts, the uninsured rate in the U.S. reached an all-time low of 11.4 percent in 2015.

Going into the 2016 OEP, reaching the remaining uninsured will prove to be the biggest obstacle as the pool of uninsured individuals has gotten smaller. However, the tax penalty for not having insurance increases to $695 per person or 2.5% of the yearly household income, whichever is greater, in 2016. The increased tax penalty should serve as an impetus to draw new customers into the marketplaces. Marketplaces also are refining their outreach and marketing strategies to reach the remaining uninsured and ensure existing customers renew their coverage. For example, Covered California conducted a survey on Californians’ awareness of the ACA in order to develop an outreach campaign that will leverage new television, radio, digital and outdoor advertisements to specifically target Hispanic, Asian and African-American audiences, which have lower enrollment rates than White audiences. MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace, expanded its broker partnership program, which proved to be successful in facilitating enrollments during the 2015 open enrollment period. Through this program, MNsure is partnering with 20 broker agencies, which will serve as enrollment centers, providing free enrollment services in the designated regions of the state. For more details on this broker engagement strategy, check out this brief.

Marketplaces also are beginning to put a greater emphasis on helping consumers understand health insurance and support them in their selection of a qualified health plan. The State Health Reform Assistance Network has compiled a library of health insurance literacy materials that several marketplaces are providing to consumers to help them understand their health insurance plans and financial assistance. This compilation is accompanied by a memo that summarizes research on consumer knowledge around health insurance enrollment and using health insurance benefits, and offers recommendations on effective ways to increase health insurance literacy based on evidence to date.

Additionally, recently announced changes that are intended to enhance consumers’ shopping experience, including a new privacy manager that will allow consumers to opt-out of third-party tools and a “do not track” setting that will prevent third-party web tracking. also has a new out-of-pocket cost calculator that will allow consumers to estimate their annual healthcare costs based on their anticipated healthcare service utilization. Over the coming weeks, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will incorporate a feature that will enable consumers to search whether specific physicians and prescriptions are covered by plans; however, this feature will not be available on November 1.

Stay tuned as we track the latest developments over the course of the 2016 OEP.