CONCORD, N.H. — MaryLou Beaver considers herself lucky to be paying 44 percent more for her health insurance next year.
After losing her full-time job in June, Beaver purchased a $938 per month plan with no deductible from Minuteman Health. But Minuteman is shutting down at the end of the year, leaving her shopping for new coverage during the current Affordable Care Act open enrollment period. The substitute offered by Anthem costs $1,976 per month with a $1,500 deductible.
“That’s more than my mortgage, and I’m looking to stay healthy so I can live in my house and pay my mortgage!” she said. “I don’t know how people are going to do this.”
Beaver, 62, of Rochester, said she is lucky in that she found a plan from Ambetter for $1,350 per month plus a $1,000 deductible. And she’s hoping to take on enough hours at her new job to qualify for an employer plan.
“Even to do $400 more a month is going to mean a total budget rewrite for my household,” she said. “But I’m fortunate that I have the options I have.”
The state insurance department announced Tuesday that Minuteman customers can take until March 1 to select new plans if they indicate through the healthcare.gov website that they are selecting a plan through special enrollment. For others, the shortened signup period that ends Dec. 15 comes after President Donald Trump abruptly ended federal payments that reimburse insurers for reduced copays and deductibles they’re required to provide to people of modest means.
That loss, plus the ongoing turmoil in Washington over the health care law’s fate, resulted in significantly higher premiums among the three companies providing plans in New Hampshire — Anthem, Ambetter and Harvard Pilgrim.
A recent analysis conducted for the state insurance department estimated that among the 97,000 people in the state’s individual market, the 74 percent who either get federal subsidies or are part of the expanded Medicaid program likely will see their premiums drop or remain flat in 2018. But the 26 percent who pay the full cost will see increases averaging 52 percent.
“This is a direct hit on us because of what has been done with Congress messing with Obamacare,” said Beaver, who’d prefer a single-payer health system. “Repealing it isn’t going to work. They have to fix it or give us single payer.”
Jayne Navarro has been helping people explore their options at the Manchester Community Health Center. In a typical day, she has seven in-person appointments and talks to another four or five people by phone. Many are relieved when they realize that while premiums have gone up, they are still eligible for subsidies to keep costs down, she said.
“I do see that they come in feeling as if they won’t be able to afford it, but for the most part, they are finding it affordable and they are able to renew,” she said.
Some Minuteman customers have come in confused about letters they received from Anthem notifying that they’ve been assigned to plans, Navarro said. According to the insurance department, such assignments will only happen if someone doesn’t choose his or her own plan.
The department is urging everyone with individual coverage to actively compare and shop for plans because information about subsidies might not have been included on letters they’ve received from insurers.