HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Wolf, Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller, and Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas are reminding consumers today that there are health care coverage options available for all Pennsylvanians. Open enrollment for individual health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins Sunday, November 1 and enrollment for Medicaid and CHIP are open throughout the year.
"This upcoming date is an important one for all those in Pennsylvania who are looking to enroll in, renew, or change their healthcare plans," said Governor Wolf. "After expanding Medicaid in April, we have enrolled nearly half a million new Pennsylvanians in healthcare. Open enrollment is another opportunity for those in need to get covered. My administration will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to their best possible healthcare coverage plans."
The Wolf administration is urging people to shop around for their best deal in the commonwealth's competitive market. Following Governor Wolf's direction that consumer impact be the top priority when considering rates for individual health plans, Commissioner Miller saved consumers nearly $81 million when she approved final 2016 rates last month, compared to the initial rates proposed by insurers.
"I am pleased that Pennsylvania consumers have choices when it comes to individual health insurance plans," Commissioner Miller said. "Every Pennsylvanian now has at least four plans from which to choose, while still paying reasonable prices."
Pennsylvanians are also encouraged to apply for Medicaid by visiting COMPASS, by phone at 1-866-550-4355, or through DHS' Community Partners - community-based agencies, organizations, coalitions, hospitals, church groups, and other groups that help submit health care applications. To enroll for coverage through the federally run marketplace, individuals may go to www.HealthCare.gov. The Department of Human Services is reminding all Pennsylvanians that there is "no wrong door" when applying. Individuals who apply through COMPASS or the federally run marketplace will automatically be transferred to the program that works for them.
"When Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid he made certain that all Pennsylvanians had access to health care coverage, regardless of income," said Secretary Dallas. "With nearly half a million newly eligible individuals enrolled in health care coverage through HealthChoices. Combine HealthChoices, the competitive market, and HealthCare.gov with our Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), there truly is an option for everyone in the commonwealth."
Anyone currently enrolled in coverage through the federally run marketplace should have received a letter from their insurance company either notifying them of any changes to their coverage or saying that they will be automatically renewed into the plan they already have if they do not choose a new plan. All individual health plans available to Pennsylvania consumers are listed at www.HealthCare.gov.
Commissioner Miller has posted information to help consumers shop for health insurance on the Insurance Department website, www.insurance.pa.gov. By clicking on "Health" under the Coverage tab, consumers can access a shoppers' guide to learn more about choosing a health insurance plan. A five-minute video is also available at this site.
By clicking on "Find Insurance Professional" under the Consumers tab, consumers can find a list of navigators and insurance agents. Navigators are people trained to help individuals sift through information on various health plans available, and evaluate which plans may be best for them. Navigators are funded by the federal government and are located throughout Pennsylvania. Many of these navigators have expertise to help specific communities, including minorities, people with language barriers, and rural residents. An insurance agent can also help consumers explore their options and direct them to a plan that fits their needs.
Commissioner Miller also recently launched an initiative to reach out to young adults, particularly college students, who may soon need to buy their own health insurance for the first time. The Insurance Department is partnering with more than 100 colleges and universities across the state, making available a letter to students, containing key information as they consider buying health insurance. This letter is available on the department's website, under the Coverage tab, by clicking on Health.
Depending on an individual's income, he or she may be eligible for Medicaid coverage through the state's HealthChoices program, or for subsidies to help pay monthly health insurance premiums, and possibly cover some out-of-pocket costs as well. While private health insurance can be purchased directly from insurers or through the federally-run marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov, only individuals buying plans purchased through www.HealthCare.gov are eligible for subsidies.
"It is important to note that health insurance is mandatory under the Affordable Care Act," Commissioner Miller said. "Penalties that were initially set at just $95 have now risen to $695, or 2.5 percent of an individual's income -- whichever is greater -- for 2016,"
Open enrollment for HealthCare.gov runs through January 31. However, individuals must enroll in a health insurance plan by December 15 to have that coverage begin January 1, and avoid any lapse in coverage. There's no limited enrollment period for HealthChoices or CHIP. Individuals can apply any time.
For more information on Medicaid, visit www.HealthChoicesPA.com.
Ron Ruman, Insurance Department, 717-787-3289
Kait Gillis, DHS, 717-425-7606
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor