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Insurance Sign-Up Starts Nov. 1 With More Options For Iowans

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The six-week period to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, starts this Thursday, and Iowans who buy their own insurance have more choices this year.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said unlike last year when only one company was offering insurance on the ACA marketplace, this year, there are two choices.

“We see a slight decrease in Medica’s rates for the silver plans and Wellmark is coming in at about where rates were last year,” Ommen said.

This follows a year when health insurance rates spiked for people in the individual market, causing an estimated 25,000 Iowans to drop their insurance plans. For those who buy their own insurance, ACA-compliant plans have the highest level of protections for preexisting conditions and coverage for many categories of health issues when compared with other options.

ACA enrollment ends Dec. 15 for most people. Non-ACA health plans don’t have an enrollment deadline.

New health plans from the Iowa Farm Bureau and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield are also available starting Nov. 1, but those are not subject to federal health care law. They have a lifetime cap on benefits and can deny coverage or charge more to people with preexisting conditions.

Iowans may soon have access to cheaper, short-term health plans that last longer than the current limit of 90 days, but Ommen wants to put consumer protections in place before he approves those plans in the state.

He said Iowans who buy their own insurance should check Healthcare.gov for ACA plans first, and seek further information from a licensed insurance agent about other options.

“I would encourage Iowans to start early this year because of the additional options that are available and spend some time again carefully considering what is best for them and their family,” Ommen said.

This year, the state has no federally-funded ACA “navigators” to help Iowans find insurance coverage on the marketplace. The Trump administration slashed funding in the state for the past two consecutive years, making it nearly impossible for organizations to participate.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter