The cost of health care can make engaging and remaining in care difficult for people living with HIV. Beginning November 1, individuals across the country will have the opportunity to enroll or re-enroll in health coverage for 2017 through www.HealthCare.gov.
Increasing the number of people living with HIV who have access to care will ultimately support them in achieving and maintaining viral suppression. This is imperative because people with low levels of HIV in their blood have better health outcomes and are less likely to pass on the virus to others. For this reason and many others, health care coverage is essential to achieving the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and making an AIDS-free generation a reality.
Through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), coverage has already been extended to thousands of people living with HIV. This year’s open enrollment period is an opportunity to increase coverage to thousands more. If you know anyone who is recently uninsured or paid the penalty last year, let them know that tax credits are available to get health coverage through www.HealthCare.gov.
Each of us must be invested in making sure those in need of coverage know how to enroll. Now, shopping for a plan is easier because anyone can sign up using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. And we don’t have to be concerned about being an expert on the Marketplace because help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.HealthCare.gov and 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).
Previous years have taught us that many who enroll are deadline-driven, so simply making sure the eligible and uninsured know the enrollment deadlines is one way to have a meaningful impact. Those who sign up by December 15 will receive coverage as early as January 1, and the last day to enroll is January 31. Plans through the Marketplace are also more affordable than many people assume: most Healthcare.gov consumers are able to find plans with a monthly premium between $50 and $100. And financial assistance is available to as many as 9 in 10 Marketplace-eligible people.
Because of the ACA, people can no longer be discriminated against due to their HIV status or other pre-existing conditions when seeking coverage. Furthermore, new limits on out-of-pocket spending make coverage more secure. Millions of Americans can now receive preventive services such as HIV testing without a co-pay or deductible.
Increasing enrollment of persons living with or at risk for HIV is an essential part of our work as it yet another way to support our clients and stakeholders. Over the next three months, let’s take this extra step to assist those we serve year-round in obtaining quality care as well as more security and peace of mind.
Caira Woods is Senior Policy Advisor to the Office of National AIDS Policy.