Open enrollment is now underway in Illinois for the Affordable Care Act health insurance - for new participants and anyone who might want to make changes in their current policies. It opened on November lst and continues through December 15th, and takes effect on January lst.
2021 will be the 8th year of health insurance plans under the ACA, offered through the state of Illinois. And just in time for the pandemic, three new insurance companies have decided to offer plans in the state, joining the five already here.
"I think that's really great news because it gives Illinoisans more options - there's more plans this year, the rates have not gone up, there's actually a bit of a decrease this year, so it's all positive. The more plans people have to choose from, it gives them more ability to pick a plan that works for their family."
That's Laura Pellikan, Executive Director of Get Covered Illinois, from the Illinois Department of Insurance. She says together, the eight companies offer 179 plans.
"The fact that there's an option for un-insured people to be able to get a health plan is huge and very important and the more plans that are available to people with more options. So I think we're definitely in a good place, in that the ability for folks to find an insurance plan and have the ability to get a health insurance plan outside of their employer is very important."
But not all of the plans are offered everywhere, the state is divided into 13 rating areas, and one of the main differences among the plans is price - would you prefer more coverage but with higher premiums, or are you willing to gamble that you won't need much health care and opt for the low premium, but low coverage plans.
Pellikan thinks it's possible the pandemic will result in more people enrolling in the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace.
"Being that a lot of people lost their jobs and therefore their employer insurance, I would imagine there's a lot more people that are searching for health coverage this year, more so than in past years. So at least in terms of numbers and people enrolling, we won't have numbers because we're on the federal marketplace, until spring."
To start, she recommends going to Get Covered Illinois dot gov (getcoveredillinois.gov).
"On the website, in addition to the fact that they can find a local assistor, we use certified application counselors, and navigators is still a term we use as well. They can type in their zip code and find somebody locally. Due to COVID, it used to be that a lot of people had in-person appointments but now they're doing phone appointments and online help, but the help is still there. They can also walk people through different plans, but Get Covered Illinois allows people to compare different plans side by side which is really helpful because when people are navigating it can be confusing."
This year, there are 293,000 participants in the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace in Illinois, and updated figures on enrollment won't be available until next year.