Highmark Building Pittsburgh

This is the Highmark building in downtown Pittsburgh.

"As we fight the spread of COVID-19 in Delaware and across the country, one of the most important things that we do is provide people with access to affordable health insurance," said Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services Tanisha Merced. "For Delawareans who are worried about contracting COVID-19, access to care is everything and that's why this year's open enrollment for Delaware's Health Insurance Marketplace is more important than ever."

Delaware's open enrollment period begins November 1, 2020, and it's more important than ever citizens have access to healthcare opportunities while the world is in the middle of a pandemic. Merced the marketplace has resulted in a lot of positive improvements for Delawareans. 

"For the past seven years, we've heard stories of grateful Delawareans who have gotten coverage through the Marketplace," she said. "After going without health insurance for many years, we've heard about newly insured people who had their first primary care visit in years and found out through preventative screens that they had treatable cancer. They credit the marketplace with saving their lives. We've heard about the peace of mind that young people have from being able to buy marketplace insurance as a bridge until coverage from their new jobs kick in. We've also heard from excited families who learned that the financial assistance would not only help with the monthly premiums but also their co-pays and coinsurance."

Officials urged those who currently have no coverage to check out available plans at healthcare.gov--but also urged those who have coverage to compare their current rates against those available on the marketplace. Merced pointed out in 2020, about 86% of the 24,000 enrollees in Delaware received financial assistance. 

As the Affordable Care Act was introduced and evolved, it ran into issues with cost for the very citizens it was intended to target. Senator Tom Carper knows it could be better, and assured Delawareans officials have never stopped working on improvements. He said prices on exchanges have decreased by 19% for the current year, and it's expected to drop another "percentage point or two," in the coming year. 

"The idea is find what works, do more of that," Carper said. "In everything we do, we know we can do better, and that's what we're doing with the Affordable Care Act. The idea of pulling the plug in the middle of the pandemic--while we have a lot of people who don't have healthcare coverage and costs are very expensive for treating this this pandemic--that would be very, very foolish."

Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro knows healthcare--and every aspect and angle of it--are at the forefront of everyone's minds right now with the world in the grips of COVID-19. 

"This year our minds are on healthcare, and the cost of care, more than ever before, so it's critical that we make Delawareans aware of the opportunities our health insurance marketplace actually can offer," he said. "During the global pandemic, it's so important that residents have access to affordable healthcare and, given the difficult economic climate, more people are actually relying on the marketplace for coverage than ever before."

The state has 12 options for health coverage and 11 dental plans available this year, and Navarro confirmed the 1% decrease thanks, he said, to the stabilization of the marketplace. 

"This is only the second time in the history of the Delaware marketplace where we've seen a decrease," he said. "So, we know that decreasing cost will increase accessibility and enrollment. We know this because last year we saw a 6.3% spike in enrollments and, as of the start of this year, roughly 24,000 residents relied on the marketplace for their healthcare, and that number has grown this year during special enrollment during COVID because people lost their employer-sponsored healthcare."

According to data provided by Highmark, Navarro said 777 individuals signed up during the special enrollment period, signifying people are taking advantage of the improvements Delaware has been able to achieve.

"With the decrease in premiums, we send a strong message about the effectiveness of the ACA, and we will continue to fight to ensure access to affordable coverage for all Delawareans," Navarro said. "This is good news. It's good timing. Now's the time to sign up and check again because. for too many people, they thought that Obamacare was too expensive. Well, the costs have really come down and we really think we've done all we can do, and we'll continue moving forward in the years to come to continue to lower premiums." 

Recent Supreme Court appointments have some worried about the existence of the Affordable Care Act long-term. Amy Coney Barrett could very well become the puzzle piece that finally allows challenging Republicans to overturn the healthcare offerings, but, in the meantime, ACA stands and is available. 

"Healthcare is still alive, the Affordable Care Act is still alive and well, despite the efforts of the current administration and a bunch of my Republican colleagues in the Senate to get rid of it," Carper said. "My hope is that,  coming out of this election, we'll have the opportunity to have the Affordable Care Act in place and make it better...[and] build on it."

But, should a national initiative disappear, officials said there are some state-level protections in place. 

"In August of 2019, legislation that was worked on by the Insurance Commissioner and signed and codified by the governor is in place in Delaware to protect the ACA consumer protections in case [the ACA] is repealed," Merced said. "We will have some essential health benefits still in place; a ban on lifetime and annual benefit maximums. So I'm very happy and proud to be a Delawarean and to have that law in place here in Delaware."