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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: January 25, 2016


Uninsured Delawareans are urged to enroll by the deadline and gain peace of mind, avoid penalty

DOVER (Jan. 25, 2016) - Uninsured Delawareans are being urged to sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace by this Sunday, Jan. 31, the last day of open enrollment for 2016 coverage.

More than 80 percent of Delawareans who have signed up for Marketplace coverage have qualified for financial assistance to lower the cost of their monthly premiums.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Secretary Rita Landgraf of the Department of Health and Social Services, and Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart joined an enrollee today at Westside Family Healthcare in Dover to remind state residents about the benefits of being insured and about Sunday's deadline.

"Over the last several years, I've had a chance to meet with Delawareans who found affordable health care and peace of mind through the health insurance marketplace," Sen. Carper said. "There's still time to enroll, so I strongly urge all uninsured individuals to go to ChooseHealthDE.com to get information about the various health insurance plans available and potential financial assistance they may qualify for to reduce their insurance costs. And because enrolling in health insurance can be overwhelming, there is free, in-person assistance available for guidance. Every Delaware family deserves access to the quality health care they need, and the marketplace is making that a reality for thousands of people for the first time."

Individuals who do not have health insurance in 2016 and who do not qualify for an exemption from coverage will face a penalty when they file their 2016 taxes next year - either 2.5% of their annual household income or $695 per person ($347.50 per child under 18), whichever is higher. And they will still have to pay all of their health care costs.

Delawareans who went uninsured in 2015 and who were not exempt from having coverage will face a penalty of either 2% of their annual household income or $325 per adult ($162.50 per child under 18) when they file their 2015 taxes.

State residents have 29 insurance plans to choose from, sold by private insurers Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna Health, and Aetna Life Insurance. A dozen dental plans are also available.

Coverage for individuals who sign up by Sunday can start as early as March 1.The federal government has said it will not offer a grace period to sign up for coverage leading up to the April 15 tax filing deadline, as it did for those signing up for 2015 coverage. And just last week the federal marketplace reminded consumers that special enrollment periods - times outside of the open enrollment period when qualified individuals can sign up for coverage - are not allowed for people who choose to remain uninsured and then decide they need health insurance when they get sick.

Many residents who are eligible for Marketplace coverage - and for savings to help afford it -- remain uninsured, Secretary Landgraf said. "We want to get the message to them that time is running out for coverage this year."

Noting the site of today's event, Landgraf made a special appeal to residents of Dover, which has seen a traditionally low rate of Marketplace enrollments and is one of six areas statewide that has been the focus of extra outreach and marketing this enrollment period. "I urge Dover residents and anyone who is uninsured to shop for a plan that fits their needs, find out if they qualify for financial assistance, and sign up by Sunday."

Delawareans can enroll in marketplace coverage at www.HealthCare.gov or www.CuidadoDeSalud.gov, or through an agent or broker. Local enrollment specialists are available to help consumers apply and enroll; the help is free. To find help go to www.ChooseHealthDE.com or call 211, the state's referral resource for health and human services. Help is also available by calling the federal marketplace help center at 1 (800) 318-2596, TTY: 1 (855) 889-4325. ChooseHealthDE.com also includes a list of agents and brokers who are certified to sell marketplace plans.

Sen. Chris Coons was unable to attend today's event but in a statement said, "As the end of open enrollment draws near, it's important to remind our friends, family, and neighbors to enroll in a health insurance plan. More than 26,300 Delawareans, many of whom have never had access to affordable and comprehensive health care services, have already signed up or renewed their health care plans. With less than one week left to sign up, now is the time to join the ranks of the insured."

Delaware enrollees

Last year, Katelyn Powers of Glasgow could no longer be covered under her parents' plan after she turned 26. Prescription drug coverage was important to her, so with help from a navigator at Westside she shopped for a plan that would lower her costs for prescriptions and that included her primary care doctor. She picked a plan that includes a $15 copay for her generic prescriptions. She also qualified for a premium tax credit and is paying less than $110 a month under her plan.

Among those who re-enrolled in coverage for 2016 is Ricardo Rosello of Dover, who was unable to attend today's event. He was recently diagnosed with cancer and is no longer able to work because of the treatments he needs. He was also eligible for a tax credit and pays a monthly premium of less than $20. He is relieved he will again have health insurance in 2016 as his treatments continue.

Stories like these show the critical role health insurance plays in connecting individuals to quality health care, Landgraf said, from preventive care to scheduled surgeries to emergency treatment. "Access to coverage is the first step," she said, "and that's what the marketplace offers."

Important to update income and household changes for 2016

Most individuals who enrolled in a plan in 2015 and who did not actively renew their coverage were automatically enrolled in a 2016 plan by the marketplace so they wouldn't have a gap in coverage. Those individuals have until Sunday to keep that plan or change plans. Either way, they should log into their account at HealthCare.gov and update their application with any income or household changes they expect for 2016.

It's crucial to report such changes. Premium tax credits and other savings are based on expected income for 2016; updating that information is the only way consumers can be sure they are getting the right amount of savings.

Watch out for scams

HealthCare.gov is the only online source where individuals can apply for and, if eligible, receive federal premium tax credits when purchasing and enrolling in marketplace coverage. Tax credits are available for individuals making up to about $46,000 a year and for families of four who earn up to about $95,000 a year.

Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart reminded the public that scam artists are active as enrollment deadlines approach. "Be cautious if you purchase a health plan through a site other than www.Healthcare.gov, which can be accessed directly or through www.ChooseHealthDE.com. Other websites may offer plans that don't contain the coverage benefits available through the Affordable Care Act." To report suspected fraud, contact the Department of Insurance at 1 (800) 632-5154 or (302) 674-7350 or email fraud@delaware.gov.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Photos from today's event at Westside Family Healthcare will be available later this afternoon at DHSS' flickr page.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.