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Obamacare Enrollment Shrinks Under Shortened Sign Up Period

Erik Neumann / KUER
Luis Rios helps do sign ups on the last day of open enrollment.

Today is the last day of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. With this year’s shortened sign up period, enrollment in Utah is lower than last year. 

In a quiet office at the Utah Health Policy Project, insurance "navigator" Luis Rios is helping Maritza Liddiard sign up for Obamacare.

"This is what it looks like when you login," Rios says, showing her the homepage in Spanish. 

Okay, now how?" Liddiard says, "put it in English."

Liddiard used to be in Utah’s Medicaid gap. She made too much money for low-income insurance, but couldn’t afford Obamacare. So, she paid the fine for being uninsured. But this year, with a new job, she’s signing up.

"Because I’m completely unfamiliar I need some assistance and he helped me navigate the different plans," Liddiard says. 

Liddiard will pay $166 per month for the plan she found. The Utah Health Policy Project mostly serves people with lower incomes who qualify for insurance subsidies. On average, premiums went up 39 percent in Utah this year but because of subsidies going up too, many lower income people ended up paying less.

Stacy Stanford is a health policy analyst at UHPP.

"It really just depends on where your income is, whether this has helped you or hurt you," Stanford says. 

Statewide enrollment is 53 percent behind what it was last year. Stanford attributes that to the Trump administration shortening the enrollment period from 12 to six weeks.  

"Cutting the enrollment period in half really has made a difference," she says. 

While enrollment for most people ends today, there is an extended sign up period for Utahns who had Molina plans. That insurer left the Obamacare exchange in August. Those individuals have an additional 60 days to choose a plan. 

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