Over 80,000 New Jerseyans Find Insurance Plans Under Obamacare Ahead Of Deadline

The Record ( — December 9, 2015

staff writer |
The Record

More than 80,000 people in New Jersey have selected insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act since Nov. 1 and local advocates are canvassing North Jersey to encourage people to sign up before Tuesday's deadline for coverage starting in January.

While local and federal officials reported a surge in sign-up activity, New Jersey Citizen Action has hired 12 people to canvas five areas in Paterson today, offering brochures and numbers for call centers to remind people they will pay a penalty of $695 if they don't sign up.

Unlike last year, there will be no special enrollment option around tax season and advocates say for the cost of the penalty, consumers can actually buy insurance. More than half of New Jersey enrollees can find plans for $75 or less a month in premiums after tax credits, federal officials said.

Outreach coordinators for SRA, a federal subcontractor assisting in the sign-ups, will be in Hackensack on Friday and Monday to help consumers and will provide a Korean translator, said Ruthy Rios, national outreach coordinator. At the group's Clifton store-front office, the walk in rate has doubled to 50 consumers a day since the enrollment period last year, Rios said.

In the third enrollment under Obamacare, experts say New Jersey could surpass sign ups from last year, when 105,306 people selected plans by the Dec. 15 deadline. Nationwide, New Jersey had the 10th largest amount of people registering for insurance.

"We are seeing a surge of interest as we get closer to the deadline,'' said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Slavitt and other experts spoke during a conference call from Washington.

More than 80 percent of the people who enrolled in New Jersey received tax credits, said Maura Collinsgru, health policy advocate with New Jersey Citizen Action.

"We've got a substantial amount of financial assistance for New Jersey residents,'' she said. "There's still a lot of money on the table and assistance for New Jerseyans,'' she said.

Since open enrollment began, more than 1-in-4 customers renewed policies nationally, more than last year when the percentage was in the teens, Slavitt said. He urged returning consumers to shop around because they can save $600 on average before tax credits.

Advocates warned that if people with insurance do not re-enroll by the deadline, they will stay with the same plan, which could be more costly. "A lot of those premiums have lowered, it behooves consumers to take a look,'' Rios said.

However, in some cases premium increases may be putting consumers off. The average rate of increase nationally is 7.5 percent before tax credits. Federal officials said they could not provide a percentage for New Jersey.

State residents can choose from an average of 38 plans from five insurers: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, AmeriHealth of New Jersey, United Healthcare, Oscar Health Insurance and Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey.

Nationally, more than 1 million new consumers signed up for health coverage for 2016 and about 1.8 million have returned to the marketplace to renew their coverage, federal officials said. In the past week, there were more enrollments than over the same time period in the previous year, the third consecutive week that occurred.

Copyright 2015 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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