HSRI: Sign-ups for health care coverage outpace last year so far

PROVIDENCE — HealthSource RI, the state’s health insurance exchange, reports 31,000 people have signed up for health care coverage about a month into the open enrollment period for the 2019 plan year ending Dec. 23, 3,600 enrollments ahead of where they were at this point last year.

Last year at about this time during open enrollment, HealthSource RI had counted about 27,400 people enrolled for health insurance through the exchange, according to HealthSource RI Director Zachary W. Sherman.

Sherman said the agency has seen many people renewing existing coverage either manually or automatically.

“We’re pleased with where we are with sign-ups,” Sherman said.

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That optimism comes with the caveat that this year is the first that the agency lacks a significant point it has long relied on in their marketing: the tax penalty for failing to enroll in health insurance. The 2018 Republican tax cut bill removed the penalty for not signing up for health care in 2019.

In the past, he said, HSRI has been able to point to the tax penalty as a financial drawback to opting out of purchasing coverage.

“We’re no longer going to be able to say that,” Sherman said.

Instead, he said, HSRI has focused on how it’s better to have health coverage than not, and to educate people about the value of purchasing health insurance and preparing yourself for the unforeseen.

Sherman said people should 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.

On Monday, Sen. Jack F. Reed, D-R.I, visited the HealthSource RI Walk-In Center, 401 Wampanoag Trail, East Providence to encourage Rhode Islanders to check out their options at HealthSource RI, compare plans that best fit their needs, and estimate their savings.

“Finding the right health insurance coverage can be complicated, but HealthSource RI provides helpful tools online and personalized assistance to help consumers navigate the health care system.  I encourage all Rhode Islanders to get the facts and get the coverage they need,” said Reed.

“This open enrollment our aim is to expand access to health coverage to those who do not have it by allowing Rhode Islanders to enroll how they want, when they want and where they want,” Sherman said Monday. “We also want to remind folks that health insurance costs more without us. Not only do eight out of ten customers receive financial help to pay for their health insurance, nearly half of our customers pay less than $100 dollars a month for high-quality coverage.”

HealthSource RI is holding an enrollment fair Dec. 11 at Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick and other enrollment events in communities across Rhode Island. The full schedule is available on HealthSourceRI.com/events.

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