Attention, health insurance shoppers: You can now window-shop the 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange.
The Trump administration posted plans and premium previews to the federal marketplace Healthcare.gov Wednesday. Open enrollment — the time in which you can actually sign up for a healthcare plan — is set to begin on Nov. 1.
It's not a bad idea to start browsing, though, because, you've got less time to sign up for health insurance this year. Federal open enrollment ends on Dec. 15, though some state-run exchanges have longer deadlines. (You can find how long you have specifically in our a state-by-state guide to 2018 open enrollment.)
A primer on shopping the 2018 ACA exchanges
The ACA - also known as Obamacare - has a lot going on this year, thanks to ongoing political sparring over, well, its existence. Republican lawmakers failed (repeatedly) to overturn the law, which is why open enrollment is still on, but the Trump administration has made decisions that are affecting the exchanges. Most notabley, President Donald Trump announced plans earlier this month to end cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) payments to insurers. In the wake of this decision, here's a quick primer on shopping the 2018 ACA marketplace.
- Prepare for higher premiums. Trump's decision to end CSR payments - which reimburse insurers for copay and deductible discounts to low-income Americans - has only added to ongoing reports of rising ACA premiums. And, in fact, an analysis conducted by Avalere Health in the wake of Healthcare.gov's 2018 launch, found premiums for silver plans (the most popular ACA metal tier) have risen by an average of 34%. Now, prices vary widely by state, but it's probably a good idea to at least prepare for some sticker shock. Having said that ...
- Premium subsidies are still out there. Under the ACA, people who make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level still receive a premium tax credit when they sign up for a health plan through the marketplace.
- Check out the Gold plan. Some states responded to Trump's CSR cut by asking insurers to raise rates solely on silver-level plans. You can find a explainer on why here, but, quick take: If you don't qualify for the premium tax credit, a Gold plan might actually be your best option.
- You can shop off-exchange, and, if you don't qualify for subsidies, you should. While all healthcare plans must cover the 10 essential benefits stipulated by the ACA, insurance companies have more flexibility when structuring one that's not being sold on-exchange. As such, so you might find a more affordable option by buying a plan from an insurance company directly. (Policygenius can help you comparison-shop for health insurance on- and off-exchange beginning next week here.)
Clueless about what makes a good healthcare plan in general? We've got more helpful resource in our Health Insurance Learn Center.