Pennsylvanians in need of health insurance coverage for 2022 still have time to shop for it. Open enrollment through Pennie will continue through January 15, allowing Pennsylvania residents to select an affordable plan from a variety of insurance carriers.
Roughly 358,000 Pennsylvanians currently get their health insurance through Pennie. Some 48,000 of them have signed up during the ongoing enrollment period. The remainder enrolled last year and either renewed their existing plan or switched to another available through the exchange. A total of 13 carriers are offering individual health insurance plans through Pennie in 2022, although several of them have the same parent company.
Those who sign up for a plan between now and the cutoff date will see their coverage take effect on February 1.
Pennie is a state-run health-insurance portal created by the legislature in 2019 to replace Healthcare.gov as the official insurance exchange for Pennsylvanians (although the latter still exists). It was launched last fall to provide coverage for 2021.
Zach Sherman, Pennie’s executive director, cites the advantages of a state-run exchange.
“First and foremost was the reality that we could run and operate a state-based exchange,” he said. “Run by Pennsylvanians, serving Pennsylvanians at a much lower cost.”
Sherman says state-level control allows for flexibility.
“Right away, we extended open enrollment last year to January 15 (of 2021),” he said, “making the time Pennsylvanians could sign up a month longer than what it was through Healthcare.gov. We have a dedicated call center where Pennsylvanians can call and get through and get support. If they don’t have a computer or don’t want to do it online, they can apply and enroll over the phone.”
Sherman says resources are available for those who need help with the enrollment process, whether they are computer savvy or not.
“We invested in more outreach in community-based organizations,” he said, “in non-profits, help centers where people can go to what are called assistors to sit with then, in person or virtually, to get one on one enrollment assistance. And we worked really closely with the broker community to create a broker certification process and have partners in licensed insurance communities across the commonwealth. We have more than 3,000 brokers providing assistance through Pennie that people can get referred to.”
Support from assistors and brokers is also available online through the Pennie website or by calling 1-844-844-8040
Applicants should be aware that while assistors can provide information and answer questions, only licensed brokers can actually sell insurance.
At a recent press conference, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf touted the benefits of the Pennie program.
“Pennie is the one-stop-shop for Pennsylvanians’ health care needs,” he said. “With Pennie, Pennsylvanians have access to a variety of resources to help them understand how to apply, shop, and enroll in health coverage including access to people who can help them right in their community. Pennie also provides financial assistance for those who qualify, which means health care coverage is more affordable for Pennsylvanians. Now, more Pennsylvanians can access the care they deserve, ultimately giving more people the opportunity to live healthier lives.”
At the same news conference, Pennsylvania House Minority Leader Joanna (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) said, “We are living in a tragic age.” She noted that with the outbreak of COVID-19 and severe health disparities, insuring the underserved population is more critical than ever.
Pennsylvania State Senator Art Hayward (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery County) was an advocate for the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March of 2010. Healthcare.gov and later Pennie were created with the intent of providing every American affordable access to health insurance. He urged the uninsured to apply for coverage.
“Healthcare is freedom,” he said. “It’s freedom to live a longer life; it’s freedom to live a more independent life.”
Sherman stressed the importance of individuals having affordable access to health insurance, in particular those who don’t get insurance through an employer.
“Any of the individual marketplaces exist to provide quality insurance options to Pennsylvanians,” he said, “and very importantly, the financial assistance available to make it affordable to consumers.
“If the marketplace wasn’t there to support people navigating the process into the right plan for their health needs and their budget and providing financial assistance so they could pay for the plan, many, many more people would be uninsured.”