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Administration Predicts Smooth Sailing for Next Health Law Sign-Ups

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

November 14, 2014 -- Obama administration officials Friday touted a wider selection of plans and stable premiums as they previewed Saturday’s launch of 2015 enrollment in the federal insurance exchange.

The application has been winnowed down to 16 screens. Ninety percent of the renewal application for the 7.1 million people who got coverage this year is already filled out using previously submitted information. Officials portrayed the sign-up process as a cakewalk compared to last year’s fiasco of frozen screens and weeks-long delays in gaining access to insurance.

A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services official said the process will so much simpler that it will be possible during the Nov. 15–Feb. 15 open enrollment window to compare plans and enroll in coverage using a smart phone.

“With 25 percent more issuers participating in the marketplace in 2015, more than 90 percent of consumers will be able to choose from three or more issuers—up from 74 percent in 2014,” a White House official said. The officials added that there are 77 more health insurance issuers selling plans in the exchanges for 2015, a 25 percent increase over 2014.

The official said some 200 enrollment events will take place this weekend across the country as part of the launch.

According to CMS, consumers on average can choose from 40 health plans, up from 31 in 2014.

Navigating the complexity of picking and enrolling in a plan depends on getting in-person help, enrollment officials say.

Adding to the complexity of the sign up process is that officials will be trying to enroll millions more Americans who lack health insurance at the same time they are handling the renewal process for the first time. And there’s really only a month to complete the process to have coverage by Jan. 1.

“All consumers shopping for health insurance for 2015—even those who currently have coverage through the Marketplace—should enroll or re-enroll between November 15 and December 15 in order to have coverage effective on January 1, 2015,” CMS said in a statement.

They shouldn’t just reenroll in an existing plan without checking on their options, said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “Consumers should shop around, with new options available this year they’re likely to find a better deal.” 

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