Obamacare Enrollment Proves More Popular Than Ever

by Aaliyah Bowden

More people have signed up for a health plan under the Affordable Care Act in 2022 according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Throughout the United States, the enrollment for Obamacare has increased significantly for 2022 with more than 923,000 new people signed up, according to CMS. There are nearly 4.6 million Americans who have signed up, with 80% from returning members and 20% among new members.

The increase is primarily because the Biden-administration promised lower premiums this year under the American Rescue Plan. North Carolina has experienced a major increase in enrollment for Obamacare.

“There has been a higher traffic, more folks are coming in,” said Mark Arnam, director of the North Carolina Navigator Consortium. “North Carolina has always been one of the most successful states in the country when it comes to enrolling in actual ACA marketplace plans. We are third in the nation among federally facilitated marketplace states for signups.”

Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and was extended for an extra month this year. The deadline to sign up was Dec. 15 for insurance to start on Jan 1. Those who haven’t signed up yet have until Jan. 15 to enroll so their insurance coverage will kick in on Feb. 1.

If a person does not enroll by the deadline, they will be unable to enroll unless they qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Under the ACA, there will be lower premiums with half of its members qualifying for the Silver-level plan for $10 or less each month for health insurance. Health plans will be cheaper next year largely because of the American Rescue Plan.

The American Rescue Plan was signed by President Joe Biden to provide relief to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and to “rescue the economy” from the effects of the global health crisis.

One part of the American Rescue Plan includes “lowering or eliminating health insurance premiums” for millions of low-income and middle-class families. The law expanded subsidies for middle-class households next year by reducing the cost required to buy a benchmark plan.

The law includes larger subsidies to ensure “no family spends more than 8.5% of their income” on health insurance. A family of four with an annual household income of $90,000 could see their premium decrease by $200 each month, according to a statement on the White House’s website.

Lower health premiums will allow for more people who are uninsured to receive healthcare.

“So, for a couple cups of Starbucks coffee, you can have health coverage, which is pretty amazing to me,” Arnam said. Four out of five Americans will be able to afford health insurance for $10 a month or less because of the American Rescue Plan, Arnam added.

Before the ACA was enacted in 2010, African Americans were more likely to be uninsured compared to their white counterparts.

Some Black people do not have health insurance because of their income status, inability to access transportation, or if they live in a food desert in which there is a lack of fresh food available. In 2019, a KFF study found that 11% of African Americans were uninsured, with 37% of Black people on Medicaid or covered under another public plan, and 52% who had private health coverage.

From 2010 to 2015, there were about 2.5 million (15%) of African Americans that received health coverage according to a project conducted by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This was significantly lower than other racial and ethnic groups with 32% from non-white Hispanics receiving coverage, and 43% from whites.

One of the goals of ACA is to ensure all people have access to high quality healthcare including women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Now that more Black people will be able to afford health insurance through the ACA, it means more of them will receive care.

Under the government health plan, a range of health services will be covered such as doctor visits, unplanned emergencies, prescriptions, pregnancy and childbirth, mental health services, and COVID-related illnesses.

A KFF study found that “uninsured rates were higher and Medicaid enrollment were lower in states that have not expanded Medicaid” compared to states that are in favor of Medicaid expansion.