- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2014

Turning into an insurance salesman again, President Obama reminded Americans that Saturday is the first day to enroll in Obamacare for 2015.

In his weekly address, Mr. Obama said his administration has spent the last year improving and upgrading HealthCare.gov, “to make it faster and easier to use.” The web site was riddled with problems during its initial launch in October 2013, and the Department of Health and Human Services is promising a better experience for consumers this time.

Hours before the new enrollment period opened, the Obama administration revealed data Friday showing that many Americans who purchased plans under Obamacare last year could face substantial price increases next year — as much as 20 percent — unless they switch plans.

The health care consulting firm Avalere projected that 4.4 million of last year’s enrollees will face higher premium if they automatically reenroll In the same plan. The cheapest plan, known as the “bronze” option, will cost about 3 percent more than last year, according to the data.

The president said people who already purchased insurance on the exchanges last year should “take a look at some new options for next year.” More insurers are participating in the program this year.

“You might be able to save more money,” the president said.

SEE ALSO: Jonathan Gruber, Obamacare architect, recast as bit player amid uproar over remarks

Mr. Obama said first-time buyers should learn whether they qualify for tax credits to help off-set premiums, which are expected to cost a minimum of $307 per month for a 50-year-old non-smoker.

“If you missed your chance to get covered last year, here’s the good news,” Mr. Obama said. “Starting November 15th, today, you can go online or call 1-800-318-2596 and get covered for 2015. If you haven’t signed up for insurance yet, this is your chance.”

The enrollment period lasts until Feb. 15, although consumers who want coverage to begin on Jan. 1 must sign up by Dec. 15. The federal exchange is handling open enrollment for 37 states, while 13 states and the District of Columbia are running their own exchanges.

Last year, about 8.1 million people enrolled for coverage, but that number was reduced to 7.1 million because of ineligibility and non-payment.

This year, HHS is expecting about 9 million people to sign up, which would be far below the Congressional Budget Office’s projection of 13 million.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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