Open Enrollment Will Be Shorter in 2018

There are a few changes to Open Enrollment every year, and 2018 is no exception. Let’s review how this year’s updates will affect brokers and their clients.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) faces an uncertain future under the new administration. With so many moving parts, it is unknown if and/or when Congress will pass new federal healthcare legislation and how it will affect you and your clients.

Each year, there are at least a few minor changes to Open Enrollment. Let’s examine some changes we already know will affect the 2018 Open Enrollment period.

Shorter Enrollment Period

Open Enrollment 2018 will take place November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017, a significantly shorter time period than last year. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a rule that reduces Open Enrollment from three months to 45 days. The purpose of cutting the enrollment time in half is to “reduce opportunities for adverse selection.” The rule intends to “improve the risk pool and promote stability in the individual insurance market.” It purports that the rule helps both insurance companies and consumers.

This rule could affect you and your clients dramatically, as you now only have half the time to meet with each of your clients. Making sure clients understand their plan and fill out the paperwork properly before then submitting it to the health insurance company can be difficult and time-consuming. This will be especially challenging in 2018 if your clients procrastinate or are too busy with other pressing matters to address their healthcare plan needs in a timely manner.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services anticipate that a truncated timeframe for Open Enrollment will not dramatically affect new enrollees, but they also predict that Open Enrollment 2018 will have fewer new enrollees than in past years. This prediction is based on the assumption that enrollees from past years will not let their coverage lapse and, therefore, will not need to re-enroll.

Critics of the new rule say it undermines the progress achieved by the ACA and gives less time to consumers to make careful decisions about their healthcare. Proponents of the rule say that it will give more plan options to consumers and stabilize the marketplace for individual and small business plans. It is unclear at this time whether or not this rule change will prevent insurance companies from withdrawing their plans from the Marketplace.

Fewer Plan Options 

With the ever-changing nature of federal healthcare legislation and insurance companies losing money on current health plan offerings, some insurance companies are backing out of the Marketplace. This leaves you and your clients with fewer plan options, resulting in higher premiums due to the lack of competition. Fewer options means that the specific needs of your clients and their employees may not be met. It will be a few months before we know what types of healthcare plans will be available on the marketplace, however, so at this point it has essentially come down to a guessing game.

Be sure to check back here for any changes or updates to the federal healthcare law and how it will affect your firm and clients.

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