MANCHESTER — With more than 40,000 New Hampshire residents expected to sign up for federally subsidized health care through the Affordable Care Act next year, state and health care officials are reminding people that open enrollment for 2020 coverage begins Friday and lasts for six weeks.
Health insurance premiums are expected to drop about 6% compared to double-digit increases in recent years, according to state officials. The Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as Obamacare — was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.
Health Insurance Commissioner John Elias encouraged those who are uninsured to sign up through the Health Insurance Marketplace during an announcement made at Amoskeag Health Center Thursday morning.
Residents can compare plans and apply for health insurance at healthcare.gov. Enrollment starts Friday and runs until Dec. 15.
“These dates are critical because it’s really the only time you can get the policy unless you qualify for a special enrollment period,” Elias said.
Kris McCracken, CEO of Amoskeag Health, said she’s seen the “importance and positive impact” of the Affordable Care Act in the state. Before it was signed, 40 percent of patients of the center were uninsured.
“Since its implementation, that rate has dropped by half, which is amazing,” she said.
McCracken told a story of one physician who worked with a man in his 50s with diabetes who had trouble controlling his blood sugar levels.
“After 2010 all of a sudden his numbers started going perfectly in the right direction and she said, ‘What’s going on?’” McCracken said. “And he said, ‘Well, I have insurance now I can actually buy my medication all the time.’”
Three insurance companies will offer individual plans on the New Hampshire Marketplace: Anthem, Ambetter from NH Healthy Families, and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, according to the department.
Consumers can buy plans outside of the federal marketplace, but Elias warned against companies like Aliera Healthcare and Trinity Healthcare, which the state on Wednesday ordered to immediately stop selling or renewing illegal health insurance in the state. Aliera also markets their products under the company name Ensurian, according to the Insurance Department.
Trinity represents itself as a health care sharing ministry, but did not meet federal and state requirements.
Elias encouraged the 1,400 with these plans in New Hampshire to find new health insurance options during the open enrollment period.
Some residents are eligible for programs to help lower health care costs depending on their income level, he said.
“There are two types of financial assistance that you may qualify for based on your income – tax credits which can help you afford your monthly premiums and cost sharing reductions which reduce your out of pocket expenses,” he said.
Sandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress & Education Fund, said the state has done a lot to chip away at the rate of those uninsured.
“If they have coverage already, it is really important for people to go and double check that their network and prescription drugs are still covered or to check to see if there might be additional cost savings because you certainly don’t want to miss those,” she said.
Residents can receive help comparing plan through the NH Navigator, a program reinstated this year, after being dropped last year because of funding. More information can be found at newhampshirenavigator.com or by calling 877-211-NAVI.
Amoskeag Health will host open houses from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, and Thursday, Dec. 12, at 145 Hollis St. in Manchester for those looking for information on enrolling.
“Quality health care coverage through the ACA is available to all who need it,” McCracken said.