HSRI: Health insurance enrollments are ahead of last year so far

PROVIDENCE — Enrollment for health care through Rhode Island’s Affordable Care Act exchange, HealthSource RI, remains ahead of last year’s signups at 11 percent higher than during Dec. 10 last year, at 31,771, but lack of a tax penalty may yet affect signups.

Zachary W. Sherman, HSRI director, said he’s not ready to weigh in on whether the individual mandate, zeroed out by the 2018 Republican tax cut bill, will have an effect this year. This enrollment season is the first since the change, which leaves the requirement to sign up for 2019 coverage, without the penalty.

“I would say it’s still too early to say what the impact of the penalty going away will be,” Sherman said.

Sherman is encouraging people to sign up for and pay for their insurance by Dec. 23 to make sure that there’s no lapse in their coverage. More than 80 percent of people who purchase health care coverage from HSRI receive a federal tax credit to help with the costs of insurance.

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Of the signups so far, 29,015 are renewing customers, and there are 2,756 new customers signing up. Last year at this time, there were only 28,659 total signups.

Sherman attributed the uptick in signups in part to HSRI’s flexibility as a state-based ACA exchange to pursue its own advertising campaigns and schedule enrollment more effectively as part of the reason for the slight rise despite routine federal challenges to elements of the ACA. In Rhode Island, ACA open enrollment lasts through Dec. 31, weeks past the Dec. 15 federal deadline, which states without state-based exchanges observe.

“We’re doing everything we can to make the case that having health insurance is really important,” Sherman said, both to secure routine care that can prevent many serious conditions and to prepare for unforeseen serious illness.

Sherman said that since 2013, many more people have been able to secure health insurance for themselves thanks to the ACA, and like it that way.

“People like having health care,” Sherman said.

HealthSource RI is holding an enrollment fair Dec. 13, 9 a.m. till noon, at the Providence Community Health Center at 1 Randall Square, Suite 202. Another enrollment event will be held at Middeltown Library, 700 West Main Road, Middletown. The full schedule is available on HealthSourceRI.com/events.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.