Stop Stalling And Buy Obamacare Plan, Officials Say — Deadline Is At Hand

NJBIZ — Thursday, February 12, 2015

By Beth Fitzgerald

So far, 222,640 New Jerseyans have enrolled in a 2015 health plan under the Affordable Care Act — and Thursday, government officials urged consumers who need coverage to stop procrastinating, log onto HealthCare.gov, and choose a plan before open enrollment ends at midnight Sunday.

Kevin Counihan is chief executive of the ACA health insurance marketplace run by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, where New Jerseyans can choose among health plans sold by five insurance companies: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; AmeriHealth New Jersey; Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey; UnitedHealthcare; and Oscar Insurance.

"We are doing very well in New Jersey," Counihan told reporters during a telephone conference Thursday.

As of Thursday, 2015 enrollment well exceeds the nearly 162,000 who signed up for 2014 coverage, the first year of the Obamacare marketplace. Federal subsidies are available at HealthCare.gov to defray the cost of coverage and, so far, more than 80 percent of New Jerseyans who have signed up have qualified for an average subsidy of $309 per person, per month.

Among those benefitting from ACA subsidized coverage is Joe Dellilo of Toms River, who took part in the telephone conference.

Dellilo, an auto mechanic in Lakewood, said that, before the ACA, he was paying more than $700 a month for coverage: "Now my monthly bill has been cut almost in half. And I love the peace of mind that marketplace coverage has given me."

Dellilo said he has had two hand surgeries in the past couple of years. "I've re-enrolled in a Horizon plan for 2015 and I'm very satisfied," he said. "My message to my fellow Jersey-staters is: Don't wait, you have until Feb. 15" to log onto HealthCare.gov.

Ray Castro, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said: "As expected, we are seeing an uptick in marketplace selections as the deadline approaches. Within the last two weeks, there was an increase of 6,235 selections and, the two before, there was an increase of 4,637. Hopefully there will be a much bigger spike this week."

Castro said demand in New Jersey for ACA coverage is "37 percent higher than the last open enrollment period, which is in line with federal projections. New Jersey's average of $309 a month per individual for federal premium subsidies continues to be among the highest in the nation. This will make insurance more affordable for thousands of New Jerseyans."

Maura Collinsgru, health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action, said New Jerseyans can go to the website Covernj.org or to HealthCare.gov to find locations nearby where they can get help signing up for coverage. "There will be dozens of events throughout the state over the next couple of days for consumers" who need help.

She said that, this time around, open enrollment is going smoothly, without the technical glitches that marred the fall 2013 launch of Obamacare.

And now, "When consumers come in with complex issues, we have better resources and more assisters who can help them."

She said more Latinos are enrolling this year, and bilingual assistance is available: "We are reaching out to communities where we know enrollment was lagging, and we're seeing terrific results. Consumers are more prepared, knowledgeable and ready to enroll."

According to HHS, as of Jan. 16, 62 percent of New Jersey's ACA consumers had re-enrolled in the health plan they had in 2014, while 38 percent selected a plan for the first time. And HHS said that, as of December 2014, 61 percent of New Jerseyans who got Obamacare coverage were able to find a plan for $100 a month or less, after subsidies.

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