- Associated Press - Thursday, December 21, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Enrollment in health insurance under the federal health care law dropped by nearly half in Missouri this year, but the central part of the state has seen an increase in sign-ups.

Numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show about 133,000 people in Missouri enrolled in a plan under the health care law, compared with more than 244,000 people last year, the Columbia Missourian reported. The numbers do not include data for the final week of open enrollment, which ended Friday.

Despite the state’s overall decrease in enrollment, central Missouri had one of its highest enrollment years since the health care law began in 2010, said Scott Miniea, who oversees the region for the Cover Missouri Coalition, a network of nonprofits working to promote affordable health insurance in the state.

He also works as a program manager at Primaris, a member of the coalition. Miniea manages the member’s assisters, who are trained to help people sign up for health insurance under the law.

Miniea said their assisters enrolled nearly 240 people in six counties, which is 86 more than last year.

“We were constantly working,” said Kevin Wehner, an assister for Central Missouri Community Action. “I would say that more people sought help than in previous years.”

This year had shorter sign-up periods and budget cuts that reduced funding to publicize open enrollment.

The first period of enrollment under the health care law in 2013 lasted six months. This year lasted six weeks.

Budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reduced the funds available for advertising open enrollment season by 90 percent.

“In my estimation, the fact that the cuts were made seemed to attract more media attention to open enrollment in general,” Miniea said. “The cuts affected some of the programs in our region that were federally funded and meant that there were fewer counselors available to meet the demand.”

Talks about repealing and replacing the health care law also played a role, according to Jean Leonatti, CEO of the Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging.

“All the discussion in Congress has confused people.”


Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com

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