Houston Matters

Expert Discusses Affordable Care Act Enrollment

Ken Janda, CEO of Community Health Choice, thinks the roughly 350,000 people who live in the Houston area and have individual coverage through the ACA will re-enroll this year

An expert in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, thinks that the roughly 350,000 people who live in the Houston metropolitan area and have individual coverage through it will enroll again this year.

Open enrollment in the ACA starts this Thursday, November 1.

Houston-based non-profit Community Health Choice is one of four local health insurance providers offering ACA plans. In an interview with Houston Matters’ Maggie Martin, CEO Ken Janda explained people can enroll on the government website healthcare.gov, as well as on Community Health Choice’s website, and the websites for other providers.

“Most people will see very small rate increases. Our rate increases sort of range between 6 to 8 percent. Frankly, some of the other competitors are even lower than ours in terms of their rate increases,” noted Janda.

Premiums

Premiums vary by age and Janda detailed that, depending on your income, people can get a subsidy which lowers the costs.

Janda said most of the people who don’t enroll are relatively young and what he describes as “the working poor.” “For most of those people, even a subsidized premium is more than they fell they can afford.”

Janda also commented the age of people who could get insurance through the ACA is a factor. “Once you get over about age 50, the percentage of people not buying drops quite a bit, but when you’re 25 or 30 years-old and young and indestructible those are the folks that tend not to be buying right now.”

Community Health Choice has outreach programs to inform the public about the ACA and Janda said that his organization works closely “with all the federally qualified health centers and with Harris Health and with many other community based organizations to get the word out as best we can,” although he lamented that federal funding for outreach has decreased.

Lawsuit led by Texas

Janda also touched on the Texas-led federal lawsuit that aims to terminate the ACA arguing that, after the passage of the GOP’s tax plan last year — which also repealed a provision of the law that required people to have health insurance — the law is no longer constitutional.

Janda’s organization disagrees with the lawsuit but he doesn’t think the litigation will impact enrollment this year.

He would support a discussion on an alternative to the ACA and specified that there is a need for providers “to have the ability to have more flexibility in the benefits offered.” “It’s a very rich benefit package and I think there’s some people who would like to have lesser benefits,” Janda noted, while adding that another aspect in which the law could be improved is giving states more flexibility in the administration of the ACA.

Community Health Choice offers the aforementioned bronze plans, which are the least expensive. Additionally, they offer silver plans, which have an intermediate cost, and the gold plans, which have higher premiums, but lower deductibles and co-payments.

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