2015 Obamacare Open Enrollment Begins

The second Open Enrollment period for individuals purchasing health insurance through Affordable Care Act government exchanges kicked off Saturday. Customers have one month to sign up for insurance in order to receive coverage by Jan. 1.

Millions of Americans are now shopping for their health insurance for 2015.

The second Open Enrollment period for individuals purchasing health insurance through Affordable Care Act government exchanges kicked off Saturday. Customers have one month to sign up for insurance in order to receive coverage by Jan. 1.

Sylvia M. Burwell, the US secretary for Health and Human Services, promised users would see an improvement over last year, when a host of technical problems delayed enrollment for millions of people.

“Whether consumers visit the simpler, faster, and more intuitive Healthcare.gov or contact the call center, they’re going to find more choices and competitive prices,” Burwell said, in a press release.

The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that about 10 million previously uninsured people got health insurance in 2014 as a result of the new marketplaces. HHS said 85% of people who signed up for health insurance through the exchanges last year received financial assistance to defray the cost of their coverage. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says nearly 7 in 10 people who received tax credits ended up paying $100 per month or less for their insurance. Nearly half — 46%

paid $50 or less.

However, those statistics also raise a problem, because they underscore the crucial role subsidies have played in supporting the healthcare reform law.

Those subsidies are currently the subject of a case slated to go before the US Supreme Court. The plaintiffs allege that the 2010 ACA only authorized tax subsidies for people who purchased insurance on state-run health insurance exchanges. If the Supreme Court agrees, insurance enrollees in 36 states could lose their subsidies and perhaps lose the ability to afford their premiums.

For now, however, officials are simply focused on getting people to sign up. To that end, HHS has tried to streamline the process. For instance, patients who signed up last year can import 90% of their required 2015 information from their 2014 applications. Whereas last year, consumers went through 76 screens to sign up for coverage, now they’ll face just 16 screens.

The marketplace also includes a Small Business Health Option Program, which is designed to help employers with fewer than 50 employees find coverage for their workers.