Access To Care

Health Law Calls For Automatic Enrollment Of Some Workers

Aug 5, 2014

Newly hired employees who don't sign up for health insurance on the job could have it done for them under a health law provision that may take effect as early as next year.

The number of people signing up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act was about 5 million on April 19, the end of the open-enrollment period.

Though media coverage of the numbers has faded since then, a new report by ProPublica shows there have been 1 million transactions since then — an unexpectedly high number.

For months, journalists and politicians fixated on the number of people signing up for health insurance through the federal exchange created as part of the Affordable Care Act. It turned out that more than 5 million people signed up using HealthCare.gov by April 19.

But perhaps more surprising is that, according to federal data released Wednesday to ProPublica, there have been nearly 1 million transactions on the exchange since then. People are allowed to sign up and switch plans after certain life events, such as job changes, moves, the birth of a baby, marriages and divorces.

The Hope Clinic in southwest Houston is in the very heart of Asia Town, a part of the city where bland strip malls hide culinary treasures — Vietnamese pho, Malaysian noodles, Sichuan rabbit and bubble tea.

Inside the clinic, internist Charu Sawhney sees patients from many countries and circumstances. She's a big believer in the Affordable Care Act since most of her patients have been uninsured. She actively pushed many of them to sign up for the new plans.

People are worried about being able to pay for health insurance. So the insurance industry and a group of Democratic senators have proposed offering cheaper, skimpier "copper plans" on the health law's marketplaces that could draw in people who were unhappy with the cost of available plans.

But consumer advocates and others who study the insurance market suggest that there may not be a big demand for these plans and that they could expose people to unacceptably high out-of-pocket costs if they got sick.

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