ACA Advocates Work To Raise Awareness Of Signup Period

Critics Say Law Is Failing; Supporters Say It's Necessary

Doctor's office
Morgan (CC-BY)

This week marked the start of enrollment for those buying health insurance coverage on Last year Wisconsin had a record number of people sign up for health coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

But across the nation enrollment last year was down slightly. And it’s predicted that enrollment for 2018 across the U.S. could drop by a million people.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration cut funding for ACA outreach and advertising, saying it wasn’t effective and that the law was failing.

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Health advocates are trying to get the word out that coverage under the law — and penalties if people don’t have insurance — are still in place.

“So everything about the Affordable Care Act is still here and navigators are here despite funding cuts,” said Adam Van Spankeren with the federally qualified insurance navigator organization Covering Wisconsin.

Van Spankeren joined Democratic state lawmakers at a Capitol press conference this week, along with other ACA advocates.

One was Mary Gooze of Oregon, Wisconsin, who said that as someone with a serious illness, the ACA is important because it offers coverage options and prohibits denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions.

“I have metastatic breast cancer. And I am an advocate for this disease,” said Gooze. “I talk to thousands of women and they are petrified about losing coverage. The emotional burden of having cancer is difficult and then to add on to it that you could become bankrupt just to keep yourself alive. It’s so important to have health care coverage for us.”

Gooze, a retired teacher, gets health insurance from her former employer. Her husband, Robert Gooze, purchases healthcare on Wisconsin’s federally run exchange because he’s not eligible for Medicare yet.

Those between the ages of 50-64 especially rely on private insurance, according to AARP’s Sandy Drew.

“One of the most important things covered by the Affordable Care Act are pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately there aren’t too many of us who get to age 50 without having a preexisting condition,” said Drew at the press event.

Americans for Prosperity, which has been critical of the ACA, pointed out in a release that premiums in Wisconsin on the marketplace will rise on average 36 percent. Those who don’t qualify for premium tax credit subsidies will bear the full brunt of that increase.

Over 80 percent of those using the marketplace in Wisconsin qualify for discounts that will reduce those premiums. And this year many gold plans in Wisconsin will now be less expensive than silver plans, even though gold plans cover more of the costs of a typical consumer.

An interactive map put out by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows how the cost of plans has changed from last year to this year.

For example the lowest cost gold plan in Dane County for next year is 45 percent lower than a silver plan after premium tax credits. The lowest cost silver plan for 2018 in Dane County is $247. The lowest cost gold plan in 2018 is $197.

The price difference between plans is a result of how insurance companies are trying to recoup the cost of losing federal subsidies ended by the Trump administration. Insurers raised the price only on silver plans. Federal subsidies consumers get can be used for any tier plan: bronze, silver or gold.