Obamacare enrollment in Arizona expands by 40,000, with more gains likely

Oct 25, 2021, 4:05 AM
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

WASHINGTON – More than 40,000 Arizonans signed up for Affordable Care Act health insurance in the six-month special enrollment period earlier this year, and advocates expect the numbers to keep rising in the enrollment period that opens next month.

The difference, they say, is a White House that’s not antagonistic to the ACA – also known as Obamacare.

While the Trump administration cut funding and shortened enrollment periods, President Joe Biden has invested heavily in boosting enrollment. As a result, more than 12.2 million Americans now have insurance through the ACA marketplace, almost 200,000 of them in Arizona.

“The previous administration cut navigator grant funding and marketing by 90%,” said Allen Gjersvig, director of outreach and enrollment services for the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers. “But the current administration has invested more in the navigator program than at any other time.”

One of the first things Biden did was to create a special open enrollment period, which ultimately ran from Feb. 15 to Aug. 15. That was well beyond the typical fall open enrollment period for people seeking coverage for the following year, which had been cut to as little as six weeks under President Donald Trump.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that 2.8 million new customers took advantage of the special enrollment period this year to get health insurance, 40,827 in Arizona.

The extension “gave people plenty of time to hear the message,” Gjersvig said.

The Biden administration also allocated $80 million in grants to marketplace “navigators” for the 2022 plan year, money that will go toward outreach and education to help people understand the coverage they qualify for.

“It’s encouraging that the word is finally getting out,” said Jim Hammond, a publisher at the Hertel Report, which follows Arizona health care. “But word is slow to get out.”

Hammond said he expects the number of people enrolling through the marketplace will continue to grow during the regular open enrollment period for 2022 coverage, which opens Nov. 1. It wil close on Dec. 15 for people who want coverage to begin Jan. 1, but will remain open until Jan. 15 for everybody else.

“I expected them to at least get back to where they were at our highest peak,” Hammond said of the marketplace enrollment numbers. “But we really can get higher than that.”

Many people choose not to enroll because they believe they cannot afford health care, but the ACA was created specifically to lower costs and expand access to health care, Hammond said. He encouraged people to go to a navigator like Cover Arizona or to use tools like the Kaiser Family Foundation’s calculator that estimate how much financial assistance a person may qualify for, based on their income, family size and more.

“There’s still a lot of people out there who are eligible for no-cost coverage, but they just have not tried,” Gjersvig said.

Hammond said another problem is the stigma around public health insurance that dissuades people from enrolling, something navigators will have to work against.

“The sad thing is that many of these people eventually face a medical emergency that will put them over the edge,” Hammond said. “This could have been avoided if they had health insurance.”

The Census Bureau said that 11.3% of people in Arizona were uninsured in July 2019, compared to 9.2% in the U.S. who were uninsured at the same time.

Dr. Daniel Derksen, director of the Arizona Center for Rural Health, said that “while the trends are very promising…we still have some work to do.” Many uninsured Arizonans are still unaware of how health insurance works, and it is “up to navigators to help them understand what they’re eligible for,” Derksen said.

“There’s about 750,000 Arizonans who lack health insurance,” he said. “Roughly half of them are eligible for coverage and they may just not know it.”

But Derksen and other experts are optimistic that more and more people will sign up when they understand the system.

“If word gets out, and people understand and believe what they’re hearing, we would hope that the numbers in Arizona would continue to grow,” Gjersvig said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Murder charge in Arizona against divorce lawyer dismissed

A murder charge filed in Arizona against a California lawyer in the 2010 shooting death of his stepdaughter’s husband has been dismissed.
22 hours ago
(Pexels photo)...

2-year-old girl dies after drowning incident in Phoenix

A 2-year-old girl has died after being pulled out of a pool in Phoenix on Thanksgiving day, police said.
22 hours ago
(The Pick Lottery Photo)...

The Pick lottery ticket sold at Walmart in Surprise hits $8.8 million jackpot

If you bought a ticket for Wednesday night's The Pick lottery drawing in the West Valley, you'll want to check those numbers.
22 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...

Police investigate death of 27-year-old man found in Phoenix

Police are investigating the death of a 27-year-old man found in Phoenix Thursday morning.
22 hours ago
FILE - Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sit in a cooler before being thawed at a pop-u...

Arizona reports 3,322 new COVID-19 cases, 4 deaths on Friday

Arizona health officials on Friday reported 3,322 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths.
22 hours ago
(Courtesy photos L-R: Phoenix Zoo, CityScape Phoenix, Downtown Tempe Authority, Valley Metro)...

Weekend guide: Here are the biggest events around the Valley for Nov. 26-28

The holiday season is in full swing with multiple month-long events getting started across the Valley. Here are some of the biggest events around the Phoenix area.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Thyroid issues: Here are the warning signs and what to do

In a 100-person office in the United States, an estimated 12 co-workers, employees and loved ones, will likely develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. That’s because, according to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12% of the U.S. population will experience thyroid issues.

How your family can explore the Musical Instrument Museum

Whether you want to spend a day with family, do crafts with kids at home, or have an adult night out, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has options. As the world’s only global musical instrument museum, MIM offers interactive and immersive exhibits to foster an appreciation of different cultures and their instruments. “A visit […]
Sweet James

Best fall road trips to take on a motorcycle

Autumn in Arizona brings the beauty of color-changing leaves and a relief from summer heat. It’s one of the most pleasant times to explore the outdoors, especially on a motorcycle.
Obamacare enrollment in Arizona expands by 40,000, with more gains likely