Many workers who lost their jobs and health coverage because of the pandemic signed up for Obamacare plans, with a dozen states that operate their own Affordable Care Act marketplaces offering special enrollment periods to help more people get insurance. But Bloomberg Law’s Sara Hansard reports that a significant number of those new enrollees never actually got coverage — because they couldn’t pay their initial premiums:
“Almost one-third of some 20,000 Maryland enrollees from March through August didn’t activate their plans. In Washington, one-fifth of a 27,000-enrollee sample are still without coverage due to lack of payment, a sign that Obamacare subsidies may not be enough to help uninsured people get coverage in a public health emergency.
“People are enticed to sign up, but many are having trouble paying the first premium to start the coverage, Trinity College economics professor Gerardo Ruiz Sanchez found in a recent paper. Once people make the first payment, they are entitled to a 90-day grace period if they don’t make subsequent payments before being cut off.
“The findings indicate many people can’t afford ACA coverage even though subsidies are provided for those with incomes between 100% and 400% of the poverty level.”
Ruiz Sanchez’s paper reportedly found that people who lost coverage are less likely to pay their first premium than others signing up under the special enrollment option. “This provides some empirical evidence that there might be scope for considering a little bit of extra help for them,” Ruiz Sanchez told Bloomberg. “If we’re discussing stimulus checks, if we’re discussing eviction bans, why are we not discussing a little bit of help for people to keep their insurance.”