Virginians continue signing up for marketplace coverage

Gaylene Kanoyton is encouraged by what she’s seen during the first two weeks of open enrollment for Virginia’s marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

“My phone’s been ringing off the hook,” said Kanoyton, Hampton resident and founder of Celebrate Healthcare LLC, a marketing company that encourages people to sign up for health care and helps them navigate the government's enrollment website, www.healthcare.gov.

“I think the last year has really shown people what’s at stake, so more people are signing up,” Kanoyton added.

Open enrollment for health insurance in exchanges set up under former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation started Nov. 1. In the years since its inception, open enrollment lasted three months, but under President Donald Trump, the period was reduced to 45 days — from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

Trump and the GOP-led Congress made multiple attempts to repeal ACA, often called “Obamacare,” since the new president took office. Each attempt failed, but the effort continues. Public support for ACA being at more than 55 percent, according the most recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan health data and research organization.

National figures show roughly 601,462 people chose health plans in states such as Virginia with federal exchanges during the first four days of open enrollment this year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

In previous years, CMS released weekly “snapshots” of enrollment numbers nationwide, by state and by region. In a Nov. 9 news release, state and regional numbers were not listed, and e-mails and calls requesting the figures were not returned.

While CMS officials did not provide a direct comparison with any of the four previous enrollment periods, administration officials told The Washington Post that more than 200,000 consumers selected plans on the first day, more than double the number last year.

The overall total for the initial four days compares with just over 1 million Americans who signed up on the federal exchange during the first 12 days of open enrollment in 2016, the Post reported.

Despite insurers like Aetna no longer offering plans in the marketplace, Virginia continues to have more than five insurance companies offering tiered options for health insurance coverage. People with exchange plans pay a percentage of their income for health insurance, with some receiving subsidies or tax breaks.

Kanoyton said the early enrollment figures are promising, but she urged people in Hampton Roads not to wait until the last minute, Dec. 15, to enroll.

People can view plan options and insurers online at Healthcare.gov or call the marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596.

Canty can be reached by phone at 247-4832. Follow her on Twitter @DPMCanty.

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