As we approach the 11th Open Enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace, there are significant updates that can have a positive impact on consumers. One of the major highlights is the “window shopping” feature that is being launched by the Biden-Harris Administration. This feature allows consumers to preview their health care coverage options in advance, giving them a comprehensive understanding of plans and prices that will be available in their area for the year 2024.
Enhanced Financial Support
“The ACA Marketplaces have continued to grow and strengthen in recent years. This year, consumers continue to have access to affordable health care coverage that is vital for families,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, and one of the main reasons for this improvement is enhanced financial assistance under the Inflation Reduction Act. Nearly 15 million Americans are now saving an average of $800 a year on their health insurance premiums due to this legislation. The Act has also expanded the scope of eligibility for financial assistance, benefiting people who previously couldn’t afford it like families who found employer-based insurance unaffordable and individuals with modest income (more on this to come).
More Choices for Consumers
For the 2024 plan year, an impressive 96% of HealthCare.gov consumers will have access to three or more health insurance issuers, up from 93% in the previous year. The CMS has also made efforts to avoid choice overload by reducing the average number of plans available per enrollee. The “window shopping” feature ties in neatly with these expanded choices, providing an easy way for consumers to make informed decisions about their health care coverage.
Easy Pricing Plans
One of the most significant improvements in this year’s marketplace is the introduction of “Easy pricing” plans on HealthCare.gov. These standardized plans make it simpler for consumers to compare different options available to them by offering the same deductibles, cost-sharing for most benefits, and out-of-pocket limits. This standardization in pricing is designed to make the window shopping experience even more effective, allowing consumers to easily identify plans that best suit their needs.
Increasing Provider Choice
For the first time, health plans will be required to include Mental Health Facilities, Substance Use Disorder Treatment Centers, and rural emergency hospitals in their provider networks. This is a significant step towards making health care not only affordable but also accessible, especially for low-income and medically underserved consumers.
A Step Toward Equity
New optional application questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity have also been included this year in the Marketplace application. These updated queries will enable CMS to more effectively pinpoint and meet the health care access, outreach, and anti-discrimination needs of the LGBTQI+ community.
Take the First Step
As the open enrollment period runs from November 1 to December 15, consumers are encouraged to make the most of the “window shopping” feature to preview plans and premiums. This way, they are well-prepared to make selections that best suit their needs when the Open Enrollment begins.
The introduction of “window shopping” feature is an excellent addition to the ACA Marketplace, contributing to a stronger, more user-friendly system that enhances healthcare access and affordability.