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Open Enrollment Season Is Upon Us. This Year Utahns Have More Options.

Photo of online Medicaid application.
Renee Bright
The beginning of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act was Friday.

Friday marked the beginning of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. And this year, Utahns will have more options. 

Maria Guadarrama with the nonprofit healthcare group Take Care Utah, which offers free help with enrollment, said that two new insurance providers — Bridgespan and Cigna — have joined in while Molina Healthcare has expanded its options. 

In addition to longer-standing plans from Select Health and the University of Utah, that brings the number of providers in Utah participating in the subsidized healthcare program to five.

Enrollment this year runs until Dec. 15 and generally targets those who don’t receive health insurance through an employer or are not eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. 

Since open enrollment launched in 2013, Obamacare has gone through many changes. That, along with unclear messaging around the program, has led to misunderstandings about who is eligible and what kind of options are available, Guadarrama said. 

But the additional options this year suggest the health insurance marketplace is staying strong and insurance companies are seeing opportunity, she said.

“The marketplace has sustained itself throughout these years and throughout these changes,” she said. “There is more stability.”

Utahns right now also have expanded access to Medicaid, though there is perhaps even more confusion there, as the rollout has gone through several iterations since voters first approved a full Medicaid expansion through Prop. 3 last November. 

Utah is one of three states still in limbo over the expansion, though a fallback plan is currently under review and likely to pass. It’s similar to the original full expansion passed by voters but with added cost-saving measures such as an enrollment cap and work requirement. 

As Utah awaits a final decision on the plan, anyone making up to 100% of the federal poverty level — roughly $35,535 for a family of four — can access Medicaid, for which enrollment is open year-round. 

While the fallback option would increase Medicaid access to those making up to 138% of the federal poverty level, Guadarrama said that right now people in that category still have good options they can access during open enrollment, including plans with $0 premium and deductible options.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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