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Kansas Marketplace Enrollment Hits 25,000 In First Month

About 2.1 million people nationwide have signed up for health insurance, up nearly 5 percent from the same period in 2015.

Close to 25,000 Kansans have signed up for health insurance through the online marketplace, healthcare.gov, despite uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act under a new administration.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service reported Wednesday that 24,778 people in Kansas had signed up for insurance since open enrollment for 2017 started Nov. 1. The number of people seeking insurance was up less than 2 percent compared to the same period during open enrollment last year.

President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is the health reform law that created the marketplace and subsidies for low- and middle-income people to buy health insurance. Plans for replacing the law vary, although some proposals include maintaining a similar marketplace.

Nationwide, about 2.1 million people signed up for insurance in the first month, up nearly 5 percent from the same period in 2015. Slightly less than one-quarter of customers nationwide were new to the marketplace, according to CMS. Data on customer characteristics wasn’t available at the state level.

About 69 percent of Kansans purchasing insurance had an option that would cost less than $75 per month, according to CMS. About 80 percent of marketplace shoppers nationwidequalify for subsidies, according to CMS.

The lower-premium insurance plans might not be attractive to everyone, because they often include narrow hospital and physician networks and have high out-of-pocket costs. For some plans in Kansas, deductibles run as high as $12,000. 

Despite the rise in out-of-pocket costs in recent years, fewer Americans reported struggling with medical bills in the first half of 2016 than five years earlier, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

In 2011, about 21 percent of Americans reported they lived in a household that struggled to pay medical bills. In 2016, that dropped to about 16 percent, indicating about 12 million fewer people were in families that considered medical bills a strain. 

Still, about 46 percent of adults in 2015 said they worried whether they could pay their medical bills if they became ill or had an accident and 9 percent reported they had delayed care due to its cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Both rates were lower than in 2011, however, a trend studies attributed partially to a lower uninsured rate.

Open enrollment for 2017 ends Jan. 31, although people who want their insurance to start Jan. 1 have to sign up by Dec. 15. Assistance is available for those who want to compare plans and sign up.

The marketplaces were established in 2013 as part of the Affordable Care Act, which required most Americans to have health insurance as of 2014.

Meg Wingerter is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach her on Twitter @meganhartMC

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