It’s not just what’s on the ballot that matters; it’s when the vote is held.

Posted by Phil Dougherty
September 30, 2014

There is no better example of this than the upcoming November election.

Originally set for October 15 – December 7, this year’s annual open enrollment period, when consumers can enroll in ACA compliant coverage for the first time or change plans for the next plan year, was pushed out to November 15 – February 15.  CoveredCA, California’s version of ObamaCare, has followed suit and will match the new open enrollment schedule.

The explanation from the White House was the delayed start would give consumers more time to evaluate plans.  It would also allow insurance carriers more time to set rates and make plan decisions for the following year.

As for more time for consumers to make good decisions, it is going to do just the opposite.  With insurance plans having a calendar year deductible, it is to a policyholder’s advantage to start a plan January 1; to make maximum use of the policy. Under the new open enrollment schedule, one needs to enroll by December 15 this year to obtain a January 1 effective date.  This gives anxious consumers 4 weeks, including a major holiday, to enroll or make a plan change instead of the 7 ½ holiday free weeks with the original schedule. 

This change isn’t helping consumers.  Enrolling on December 16 would result in a February 1 effective date leaving one month to be covered under an existing policy, or short-term insurance, or no coverage at all.   Providing more time to help carriers doesn’t wash either.  As of this date, 2015 plan rates and benefit information are not yet available; not due to carrier delays, but because they are sitting at the California Insurance Commissioner’s desk waiting for his approval.

No. Changing the open enrollment start and end dates benefits no one, except possibly politicians (Dems or Repubs) who are anxious about open enrollment.  Potentially high insurance premiums or cries of “my doctor won’t see me” make for bad publicity and angry voters (bad for Dems), but mild increases and a smooth transition could have the opposite effect for Repubs.  Not surprising Washington has gone mute on this impractical schedule change.

Next edition: “Proposition 45: Commissioner Gordon is Batman”.

Phil Dougherty