There is still time.
For the thousands of people in the Quad-Cities who still buy their health insurance on their own, the deadline for signing up for Affordable Care Act plans is fast approaching.
The window closes on Dec. 15 for insurance that will take effect at the start of the year.
Didn’t realize the deadline was so close?
You could be forgiven that.
The enrollment period to sign up for Affordable Care Act plans opened on Nov. 1, but there’s been precious little publicity over it.
That's by design.
President Trump and congressional Republicans have done their best to kill the 8-year-old law. But, failing in Congress to do so, they have leveraged the "deep state" they so loathe to do everything possible to drive people away from the marketplaces.
They’ve eliminated the mandate that people have insurance, which was a key means of containing costs. They approved limited health plans, some of which don’t qualify as insurance, in an effort to divert people from the marketplaces.
They’ve slashed funding for organizations that help people navigate the complexities of coverage in order to sign them up.
The latter step cut the number of people in the Quad-Cities available to help sign people up. But it hasn't completely silenced their voices. We applaud organizations in our community like UnityPoint Health and Community Health Care, which continue to devote resources to help people with questions.
Still, all these nicks and cuts have had an impact. The Trump administration announced last week that, at the end of the fourth week of enrollment, just 14,211 people had signed up for marketplace plans in Iowa. That is down from 17,525 who had signed up for plans at the same point a year ago.
Look, we know that these ACA plans are sometimes expensive, especially in Iowa. For people who don’t qualify for the premium tax credits, they may not be affordable at all.
Unfortunately, the Republicans who control all the levers of power in our national government have for nearly the past two years failed to do anything about it. That's left people who don't qualify for these credits in the lurch.
But not content with that, the administration now appears to be setting its sights on the working poor and middle class Americans who do qualify for ACA tax credits.
Last week the administration proposed guidance for states that would allow them to divert this money away from the marketplaces and use it to help offset costs for plans that don’t have the same benefits or protections (like on preexisting conditions) that are included by law in ACA coverage. The money also could be diverted to some people who have coverage through their employers, which already is subsidized by existing federal tax credits.
This guidance is new, and we don't yet know how the state of Iowa might react. The state's insurance division sought a federal waiver to try to deal with its wobbly individual marketplace in 2017, only to withdraw it in the face of the ACA's high hurdles for such changes.
Now, it appears, those hurdles may have been lowered.
We also don't know if this new guidance can withstand court scrutiny.
Either way, it seems that the administration is seeking to undercut the ACA in any way it can.
Some might applaud that idea. But it seems to us that as long as it is the law, the administration ought to at least seek to faithfully carry it out. That's its job, after all.
In the meantime, we hope that all the legislative warfare over the Affordable Care Act doesn't distract people from the need to get decent insurance, which for those who qualify still comes at a decent price on the marketplace.
If you sign up. You have until Dec. 15 to do so.