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Health-Care Enrollment Period Ends Saturday

Affordable Care Act plans must cover pre-existing conditions and 10 essential benefits. (TheShiv76/pixabay)
Affordable Care Act plans must cover pre-existing conditions and 10 essential benefits. (TheShiv76/pixabay)
December 12, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. - Open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act ends this Saturday, but health-care advocates say federal cutbacks have reduced the number of Granite Staters signing up.

The Trump administration cut the open-enrollment period in half, cut funding for publicizing the program by 90 percent, and cut funding for health-care navigators to assist people in signing up by 80 percent.

According to Zandra Rice Hawkins, project manager at Covering New Hampshire, about 4,000 fewer people in the state have signed up or renewed their coverage this year. With the deadline fast approaching, time is running out for those who are uninsured.

"We're concerned that, with this shorter time period to enroll, and less publicity and consumer assistance," she said, "unless a lot of us talk in these final days, we're going to see fewer people get the health-care coverage that they need."

People who want to enroll for health plans through the Marketplace can look online at Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596. For many people, Hawkins added, the cost of insurance through the Marketplace has decreased.

"As long as we continue to make sure that everybody is getting covered, lower the rate of uninsured people in our state and continue to support this program," she said, "we can continue to see those trends go in the right direction."

Hawkins said having health insurance means being able to access care early, before health issues become more serious. While low-cost plans are available through the private insurance market, Hawkins said those plans may not cover pre-existing conditions or the 10 essential benefits required by the ACA.

"Things like substance-use disorder treatment, mental-health treatment, prescription-drug coverage, emergency-service coverage," she said, "things that families may need to use and may not be able to plan for."

In the first month of this year's open-enrollment period, more than 15,000 New Hampshire residents signed up or re-enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

More information is online at coveringnewhampshire.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NH