Almost three and a half years after President Obama signed health reform into law, the long-awaited first day of open enrollment is here. Millions of uninsured people now can start applying for coverage through the new health insurance exchanges (now called marketplaces) that will start on January 1. Yes, the open enrollment period has begun, despite the government shutdown.
As with the first year of any major program, of course, the process won’t be perfect but, over the coming months, any bugs in the online exchange websites will be fixed and other problems will be resolved. Millions of people who would otherwise go without health insurance will have it. That’s something to truly celebrate.
Unfortunately, millions of low-income people won’t have a way to get coverage, because their states aren’t accepting federal funds, which the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides, to expand Medicaid. That wasn’t the way policymakers intended the ACA to work but, in upholding health reform, the Supreme Court left it up to the states whether to expand Medicaid. But it doesn’t have to be that way. State policymakers can still choose to accept the federal funds and expand Medicaid so no one falls in this coverage gap.
Still, today marks a major step forward as millions of Americans have a new way to enroll in affordable health coverage.
For more information, visit HealthCare.gov. And, if you want more detail about how the enrollment process works, you can visit Health Reform Beyond the Basics, the website we created for people working on the front lines to help consumers access the new coverage options.