Affordable Care Act open enrollment period begins Thursday - FOX34 Lubbock

Affordable Care Act open enrollment period begins Thursday

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Open-enrollment season through the Affordable Care Act is back, as people will be able to purchase health insurance from the federal marketplace beginning Thursday through December 15. 

Ron Hettler, president of Hettler Insurance, said this open enrollment period is your last chance to get it for 2019.

"Imagine you can only buy paint one time a year. You've got a plan because your bedroom needs to be painted. It's starting to look scuffed up, so you've got to do it right now or you're not going to get any paint. You've got to buy health insurance right now, or you can't buy it next year, and any health insurance you could buy individually wouldn't cover any existing conditions," Hettler said.

One of the biggest changes from last year is the elimination of the individual mandate penalty, which means people are no longer required to pay for health insurance. 

"The penalty is only for 2018, meaning that if you did not have insurance for more than three months of the year, you still have to pay that penalty. But that has changed for 2019," Leesl Scholz, with Glen Fonner & Associates, said. 

Scholz said this repeal could have a major impact on enrollment numbers. 

"This could be detrimental for the marketplace itself because without a penalty, some people are okay with not having insurance," Scholz said.

Another change is lower premiums, as average premiums for benchmark silver plans will decrease by 1.5 percent.

"The premiums for the first time, this is the fifth year of the Affordable Care Act, are relatively stable. In fact, if you compare rates for the same-aged person from last year to this year, it dropped a little bit," Hettler said.

Hettler said he believes this is a result of the marketplace learning from previous years. 

"I think they finally figured out how high the premiums have to be to cover pre-existing conditions, to cover mental health disorders as any other illness, to cover pregnancy as any other illness, to cover drug and alcohol abuse as any other illness. They finally figured out the right price," Hettler said.

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