If you’re shopping for an insurance plan on healthcare.gov, the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, there’s an important feature that doesn’t always work, an advocacy group says. It sometimes gives misinformation about which doctors are in the network for each plan.
Julieanne Taylor, who works with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, says the website's filter isn’t always right. The center offers free in-person assistance to people trying to buy insurance through the exchange.
“We’re just trying to let people know those filters are inaccurate and until we get those fixed people just need to skip right through them,” Taylor said. “We have reached out to some individuals so we can try and get those filters fixed because we know that a lot of consumers are not meeting with a navigator so they may not know all of this.”
Taylor said the search features were added last year.
“There were glitches with it then and we were kind of hoping they would have ironed those out by this open enrollment," she said. "But it looks like they have not.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said consumers should check its online find a doctor tool to see if a doctor is in network. A spokesperson with healthcare.gov says the government is looking into this.
In the first month of open enrollment, there were 11 percent fewer people signed up for health insurance in North Carolina compared with 2017. That matches the national trend. But in South Carolina, the gap is much smaller. Only 2 percent fewer people are signing up for insurance plans through the exchange.
That’s despite the biggest insurer on the marketplace, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, lowering premiums an average of 4.1 percent across the state. In the Charlotte and Gastonia areas, the decreases could be as much as 16.5 percent. Those pre-tax credit reductions are more significant for plans with Novant Health than with Atrium Health. And according to an analysis done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, consumers in some North Carolina counties, like Catawba and Iredell, have access to plans with zero dollar premiums depending on the tax credits they qualify for.
There are several potential reasons for the decrease in enrollment. Americans no longer face a tax penalty if they don’t get insurance. The Trump administration lifted limits on short-term plans so consumers can now buy them for a year. And unemployment is at a 50-year low, so more people may be getting insurance through their employers.
Healthcare.gov’s former chief marketing officer Josh Peck who co-founded Get America Covered, an advocacy group focused on boosting enrollment, predicted 2019 enrollment in the federal marketplace will drop by about 800,000 people. Last year, 11.8 million people bought marketplace insurance plans.
The fewer that buy coverage through the individual market, the smaller the insurance pool. That could lead to higher costs. The sign-up period runs through Dec. 15.