Window to Buy Health Insurance Closes at End of Friday

Consumers that have a 2017 plan that will not be offered in 2018 will be automatically moved to a different plan if they don’t actively select a new one, but if they don’t like that plan or still haven’t decided on the right one, they will be given a special enrollment period through February to pick.

This year’s open enrollment for Obamacare is going down to the wire, with the chance to sign up on healthcare.gov ending at the end of the night Friday.

After slowing over the Thanksgiving holiday, signups picked backup in Oregon and hit 86,434 enrollments in Oregon marketplace plans as of Dec. 9, an increase of about 32,000 in the last two weeks. The state leaped over the enrollment figures for Indiana, a state about 60 percent larger than Oregon.

National figures were up by about two-thirds in the same time period, notching just short of 4.7 million enrollees compared to 2.8 million on Nov. 25.

If Oregon maintains its pace, it should hit the 100,000 goal that officials have set. National figures are on pace to top 5.5 million.

The final numbers are likely to be much higher, though, and Oregon still has a chance to maintain its 2017 levels of 131,000. That’s because none of the totals so far take into consideration auto-enrollments, where consumers passively maintain coverage on the health plan they had chosen in a previous year.

“I think there will be a lot of those people and there’s no way to estimate,” said Jesse O’Brien, a health policy expert at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group,

It’ll be harder for the nation to meet 2017 levels of 9.2 million enrolled in individual health plans through healthcare.gov, but it’s possible 2 or 3 million people nationwide could be planning on allowing their plans to auto-renew.

People whose plans are expiring at the end of the year and are having trouble deciding which new option is right for them will get a break. At the end of the year, they’ll be automatically switched into a similar plan, but the discontinuation of their old plan will trigger a special two-month enrollment in the new year to switch plans. They will have to act by the end of February if they want to make a change.

“We have confirmed with CMS that people whose 2017 plans will no longer be offered in their area for 2018 will qualify for a ‘loss of coverage’ special enrollment period in 2018,” said Elizabeth Cronen, spokeswoman for the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “This [special enrollment period] is available for 60 days after the 2017 plan ends (discontinuing plans will end Dec. 31). People whose plans are not available for 2018 receive notices to that effect from their insurance companies.”

Leading insurers like Moda Health, Regence BlueCross BlueShield and PacificSource are retrenching to only offer plans in their most profitable counties, while Atrio Health Plans, a small physician-owned health insurance company in Salem, will stop insuring anyone in the individual market at the end of this year.

O’Brien at OSPIRG said that Providence Health Plan also plans to move its customers from a preferred provider organization to an exclusive provider organization, meaning that customers will have only a select group of mostly Providence physicians in their health plan, as well as Providence clinics and hospitals.

“There’s a broad number of plans that are discontinuing,” O’Brien said.

Reach Chris Gray at [email protected].

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