Health Insurance HQ distills the current political activity around health care into a brief, monthly educational update to help you become a more active consumer and citizen. Our experts in the field and others in our community are here to provide you with plenty of handy resources to help you use your voice and your vote to make a difference.
Exactly one year ago we started the Health Insurance HQ, with the goal of helping create more informed and active health insurance consumers in our community. We knew it was going to be a bumpy ride, but we could not foresee all the ups and downs that followed. On the "up" side, the Affordable Care Act survived its seventh year, despite repeated attacks against it from both the executive and legislative branches. The successful defense of the law was due in part to the fact that the entire health care industry lined up against every new plan that was put forward, and in part because consumers like you became passionately involved in the conversation—in town halls, at elected officials' offices, and at marches and events—in numbers larger than anything seen before.
Popular support of the Affordable Care Act continued, with 8.8 million individuals signed up for coverage through the December 15 deadline in the 39 states relying on HealthCare.gov, and 2.5 million enrolled through state-run insurance marketplaces, many of which—like California and New York—are still allowing people to sign up over the next few weeks.
On the "down" side, the recent tax bill repealed the individual mandate. This means that beginning in 2019, you will no longer pay a penalty if you are uninsured. While this might sound appealing, most experts predict it will lead to the loss of insurance coverage for 4 million people in 2019, and 13 million more by 2027.
In addition, in October, President Trump signed executive orders which undermined the law in a variety of ways, including discontinuing payment of certain types of subsidies, cutting the insurance enrollment period in half, gutting federal funds for the Obamacare marketing campaign, and laying the groundwork for cheaper, threadbare plans to be re-introduced into the insurance landscape in 2018. These cheaper plans don't have to offer comprehensive health benefits or the same consumer protections, which is bad news for anyone with a pre-existing condition. They will entice younger, healthier consumers to opt out of the Exchange system, causing already high premiums on the Exchanges to skyrocket. To see how this might affect consumers, the Department of Financial Services in New York "asked insurers to estimate how much they would increase premiums if the individual mandate was repealed. On average, they said, they would have needed an increase of 32.6 percent on top of the 14.5 percent average hike they were already granted."
So what can we expect in 2018? One of the first things to pay attention to is the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which has been re-authorized through March 2018. CHIP provides nearly 9 million children nationwide with comprehensive insurance, including mental health services and cancer treatment. It is a vital part of our nation's health care system, helping many families in our community maintain coverage and/or bridge gaps in coverage. Studies have shown that children who have health insurance through Medicaid or CHIP have better access to health care and do better in school than their uninsured counterparts. In addition, CHIP offers services particularly geared to children's health and developmental needs that other insurance products typically don't, services that modest-income families would otherwise have difficulty affording.
Like CHIP, community health centers are a vital part of our health care system, providing medical and dental care to over 27 million people a year, including the uninsured. Many in our industry have had experience getting medical care at one of these health centers, and paying fees based on their income. Their funding is also set to run out in March of this year. Some of the 9,800 health centers nationwide have already frozen hiring or suspended improvement projects. If Congress does not extend their funding, they risk losing 70 percent of their funds. Sites will have to close; an estimated 9 million people could lose their access to health care, and 50,000 people will lose their jobs.
What can you do? Tell your elected officials to extend both CHIP and community health center funding for five years. It won't take much of your time, and it's funding that may impact you, or someone you love. And while we can't predict all the twists and turns ahead of us in 2018, we can be sure that health care will be a key issue in the midterm elections. So stay tuned to the HQ, stay involved in the conversation, and together, let's build a healthier, informed and active community.
Yours in good health,
National Director of Health Services at The Actors Fund
Do you work in performing arts and entertainment and have questions about health insurance? The Actors Fund provides assistance nationally. Contact our regional office closest to you to speak to a counselor.
New York City
Don’t forget to use the resources section of our website. It contains tools to help you make decisions about your health insurance, including new online tutorials on how to choose providers and how to read an Explanation of Benefits. In addition, you’ll find an updated Stage Managers National Health Directory, our national online directory of health care providers recommended by industry professionals that can be used by theaters and touring companies. For these resources and more, visit actorsfund.org/HealthServices. You can also find out more about enrollment assistance and upcoming health insurance seminars near you!
Photo © Kimberly M. Wang / eardog.com