Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Obamacare Enrollment Climbs in New Jersey

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Obamacare Enrollment Climbs in New Jersey

Article excerpt

Across the nation and in New Jersey, health coverage enrollment through the Affordable Care Act is growing, despite talk of repeal in Washington.

As of Jan. 1, sign-ups in New Jersey exceeded those at this time last year by 5 percent, reaching 273,000, federal officials said.

That is about 40,000 more than the total number of New Jersey residents with marketplace coverage in 2016.

Nationally, enrollment is up by 300,000 -- to 11.5 million -- compared with the same time last year. "We're particularly pleased to see enrollment growth this year despite significant headwinds," said Christen Linke Young, a senior official at the federal Health and Human Services Department.

Even in states such as Arizona and Oklahoma that saw spikes in premiums for 2017, sign-ups increased, federal officials said.

After three tumultuous years -- during which insurers entered and exited the market, new types of coverage were offered, premiums rose and website problems were overcome -- the market for those who buy their own health coverage appears finally to be settling down.

"We're off the roller coaster," said Joel Cantor, director of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy. "The market is becoming more predictable."

This week, however, Republicans in Congress plan to take the first steps toward repealing the health care law, a move that throws into question the future of the market created in each state and the health coverage of millions of Americans.

Republican leaders have declared repeal to be the top priority of the incoming administration.

For New Jersey, that could jeopardize the coverage of 480,000 low- income adults who gained coverage through the expansion of Medicaid, as well as those who buy their own coverage -- usually with subsidies -- through HealthCare.gov.

Sign-ups in the state during November and December grew despite an increase in the cost of coverage and a decrease in the choice of insurers.

Only two companies -- down from five last year -- are offering plans in the federal marketplace for New Jersey.

The "modest bump in enrollment in the face of higher costs suggests there's continuing demand for coverage in this market," Cantor said. …

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