It's been eight years since the Affordable Care Act was first passed and four years since its provisions went into effect. In the intervening time, the country has had a change of administration with different priorities, and that means big changes to the ACA taking effect in 2019.
One thing that will NOT change for California residents is the length of the enrollment period. The national open enrollment period has been slashed in half, from three months down to just six weeks. However, because California operates its own health insurance exchange, the open enrollment for Covered California stretches from October 15th all the way until Jan. 31, 2019.
Nevertheless, Californians will be affected by some of the other changes to the ACA. Here are five big changes you need to know about.
1. Repeal of the Individual Mandate
As of 2019, you will no longer be required to purchase health insurance. The tax penalties incurred by choosing an insurance plan that did not meet all of the ACA's requirements, or by choosing not to purchase insurance at all, will no longer apply in 2019. However, even though the individual mandate was repealed in 2017, the repeal does not go into effect until 2019, which means that if you were uninsured during any or all of 2018, you will still need to pay a penalty on your 2018 taxes.
2. Expansion of Association Health Plans
Association health plans are those offered through professional, industry, and trade groups. They provide more affordable alternatives to small companies that lack the purchasing flexibility that large corporations enjoy, as well as options for independent contractors and the self-employed who do not receive employee benefits. In 2019, these groups will be able to offer association health plans that don't include some ACA-required benefits.
3. Availability of More Plan Choices
Short-term health insurance policies are a cheaper alternative to traditional plans. They are cheaper because they are not compliant with the protections required by the ACA, but when it comes to health coverage, something is better than nothing. For some people, short-term policies may simply be the best available option, especially for those who do not qualify for subsidies. There is good news in 2019 for those who rely on short-term policies: you can now purchase short-term coverage for a term of up to one year. Some of these yearly short-term plans are renewable for up to three years on an annual basis.
4. Subsidies Protect From Premium Increases
Not everyone qualifies for subsidies, but those who do are protected from increasing premium prices because the federal subsidies increase as the price of health insurance rises.
5. Higher Costs for Those Without Subsidies
In order to qualify for premium subsidies as an individual, you need to make less than $49,000 a year. If you don't qualify for subsidies, you can expect to pay approximately $1,168 a month for family coverage and $440 monthly as an individual. However, the good news is that, compared to double-digit premium hikes in 2018, increases for 2019 are projected to be only about 3 percent, considerably lower than last year.
Health insurance can be confusing under any circumstances, but Sackett & Associates can help you find the best plan even in the face of these impending rule changes. For more information about changes to the ACA, call us at 707-823-3689, and don't forget to like us on Facebook, find us on LinkedIn, and subscribe to our blog.