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Obamacare open enrollment begins as Supreme Court threat looms

By
Jean Lotus
Open enrollment for 10 million Americans with marketplace insurance through Healthcare.gov extends from Nov. 1  to Dec. 15 even though the U.S. Supreme Court may rule to scrap the program. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Open enrollment for 10 million Americans with marketplace insurance through Healthcare.gov extends from Nov. 1  to Dec. 15 even though the U.S. Supreme Court may rule to scrap the program. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- More than 10 million Americans who receive health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace may renew or change their plans for next year, even though the U.S. Supreme Court may scrap the program in January.

A six-week open enrollment period began Sunday and lasts until Dec. 15 for plans beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

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The high court is scheduled on Nov. 10 to hear oral arguments in California v. Texas, a case that challenges the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and whether it can stand without the "individual mandate," which was removed in 2019. An opinion is expected in January.

Medical experts say those who wish to enroll or renew their Healthcare.gov policies should move ahead anyway, rather than risk having no insurance at all.

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"They should not let the fact that this is coming before the Supreme Court in any way dissuade them," Michele Goodwin, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine, told CNN.

With extra health risks during a pandemic, it's a good idea for insurance customers to double check their coverage and deductibles and not just automatically renew plans, experts say.

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"Don't just select the plan that you had last year," Jean Chatzky, CEO of HerMoneyMedia told CNBC Monday. "It's absolutely worth your time to get what you need in a cost-effective way."

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It's worth shopping around because some Obamacare plans will be more expensive this year and some less costly, with average family premiums showing between a 3.5% decrease and 4.6% increase in an overview study by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Insurers said medical costs were rising because of COVID-19 testing, the potential for widespread vaccination, medical services postponed during 2020 and chronic health issues made worse by deferred or skipped healthcare.

Americans earning less than $86,880 a year are eligible for premium assistance through the ACA that could bring premiums down to below $400 per month. An online Marketplace subsidy calculator can help predict insurance costs this year, including subsidies.

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Deductibles have also risen slightly across the board in insurance plans, to an average of $1,644 for an individual, Kaiser found.

Insurance customers should also check whether their doctor or preferred hospital is "in-network" before choosing a plan, especially during a national healthcare crisis.

There may be a rush to sign onto marketplace health insurance plans among those who became unemployed and do not want to risk not being covered during a worsening pandemic.

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As many as 7 million U.S. workers lost jobs with attached health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic, covering 14.6 million affected individuals as of June, a study by the non-profit Commonwealth Fund found.

The Texas case seeking to overturn the ACA is supported by the administration of President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who tried and failed to "repeal and replace" the ACA via legislative means.

The court has a 6-3 conservative majority after the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who filled the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The ACA extended insurance coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. It is unclear whether those protections would remain if the Supreme Court cancels the program.

Trump has promised on the campaign trail to protect pre-existing conditions, but he has repeatedly promised a new "Trump Care" plan, which never materialized.

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