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Poll: Few are aware that new Obamacare enrollment period starts soon

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The next open enrollment period to purchase health plans under the Affordable Care Act begins in less than a month. But a new poll indicates that a vast majority of uninsured Americans don't know that.

Kaiser Health News reports that the poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows nine out of 10 uninsured Americans don’t know open enrollment begins on Nov. 15, while more than two-thirds of respondents know “only a little” or “nothing at all” about the online marketplaces, often called exchanges, where they can purchase insurance.

Still, more than 60 percent of the people who responded to the poll say they plan to get insurance within the next few months.

Smaller enrollment window

The Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, requires Americans who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and who can’t get health insurance through employment, to obtain a health plan on the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, or on state-run health insurance marketplaces.

A key piece of information for consumers to know is that the marketplaces are only open to consumers during a certain block of the year, and in its second year, there will be a shorter window for enrollment.

Last year, consumers seeking to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act were given a six-month enrollment period. This year, shoppers in the exchanges will have three months – between Nov. 15 and Feb. 15 – to enroll in a plan.

Those who purchased insurance through the program last year and don’t want to change plans will be automatically re-enrolled on Dec. 15, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told the Wall Street Journal. He also told the paper that consumers should expect notices in the mail within the next month.

New options, prices

Obamacare rolled out for consumers last year with great fanfare – and great criticism that lingers even four years after the act became law.

The enrollment period for the first year of the Affordable Care Act was marred by technical glitches on HealthCare.gov, and on a number of state-run sites, that made it difficult for consumers to sign up for a plan. The delay caused by the bumpy rollout forced the Obama administration to extend the enrollment period beyond the March 31 deadline. An administrator with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tells Insurance Journal that this time around, the site will be “fully ready” by Nov. 15.

In its second year, The Wall Street Journal reports that the program will feature new prices and options for consumers. Department of Health and Human Services officials have said consumers can expect up to a 25 percent increase in the number of insurers offering coverage in the marketplaces for 2015.

The Obama administration said in September that 7.3 million Americans have bought private health plans under the Affordable Care Act, according to federal figures. That number slightly exceeded the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of 7 million enrollees in the first year of the program.

Estimate: 30 million remain uninsured

The CBO has estimated that by the end of next year, 13 million people would be covered by plans purchased under the ACA, although Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell last month said the department was re-evaluating that target. The Los Angeles Times noted that 30 million Americans remain without insurance.

Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, told the New York Times that the people who remain uninsured could be harder to reach than the people who enrolled during the first year, but that she is optimistic her group will be able to find those people and convince them to sign up.

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