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Open Enrollment Begins for 'Obamacare' Health Plans

Families face premium hikes, shorter enrollment periods and an uncertain future

Published on: November 01, 2017

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Open enrollment begins today for "Obamacare" health plans, but families who rely on the program for health insurance are facing challenges ranging from significant premium hikes to short enrollment periods and minimal advertising.

In Washington state, families whose coverage is subsidized by the federal government aren't expected to see premium hikes. But families whose coverage isn't subsidized will see the most popular plan premiums increase by an average of 34 percent, according to a study published last month. Other plan premiums are expected to rise by 16–24 percent. 

While Washington families will see significant premium increases, they aren't among the highest. Some states, like Wyoming, will see silver plan premiums increase by 65 percent.

This year, 13 insurers offered 154 plans in Washington. But for 2018, only 11 insurers will offer 71 plans. Families may have to choose new plans that come at a higher cost, and may not be able to remain with their existing providers.

Beginning Nov. 1, new customers can sign up for health insurance for 2018 on the Washington State Healthplanfinder. Existing customers can also renew or make changes to their existing coverage. Open enrollment will end Dec. 15, which is about half the amount of time it lasted during President Obama's tenure.

President Trump made a number of other changes to the open enrollment process for 2018 that may make it harder for families to sign up. He announced in July that he was ending the contracts that supplied health-care navigators to 18 cities to help people sign up. The administration has also ended much of the advertising and marketing to promote open enrollment, and the healthcare.gov website will be shut down down maintenance almost every Sunday of the open enrollment period.

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