Affordable Care Act Arizona Update

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The deadline to sign up for marketplace coverage under the Affordable Care Act is February 15. David Sayen, Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, will talk about the deadline and who is eligible for marketplace insurance, and subsidies that might be available.

Richard Ruelas: Time is running out to sign up for the marketplace insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Here to give us details on that is David Sayen, Medicare's regional administrator for Arizona. Thanks for joining us.

David Sayen: Pleasure to be here.

Richard Ruelas: Deadline is coming. What do we need to do?

David Sayen: Folks that doesn't have health insurance, have the opportunity to get insurance through the federally insured marketplace. 137,000 people from Arizona have done so already. Substantial number of those in the second year. We know there are people out there we haven't reached yet and we want them to take a look. The great majority of people in Arizona, net of the subsidy, can get insurance for under $100 a month.

Richard Ruelas: The story last year, media machine that was running last year, a lot of publicity, but fairly bad publicity. Because of the web site acting up. Haven't seen as much media attention now, because I guess the web site is going okay.

David Sayen: Actually --

Richard Ruelas: Have you seen an increase in people signing up or expressing interest at least in this?

David Sayen: Yes, absolutely, 40% over where we were last year in Arizona. We have gone from 76 screens to about 10 screens that you go through when you enroll. And you can even do it on a mobile device now, so the physical product is much more mature now and reliable.

Richard Ruelas: 40% jump in visits --

David Sayen: In enrollment.

Richard Ruelas: In actual enrollment.

David Sayen: Yes.

Richard Ruelas: What are the barriers that people have to sort of -- I mean, do people believing that this is something they need to do or should do?

David Sayen: I think it is an awareness issue. People that have never had health insurance are not really familiar with the idea, not thinking about it. Most of us don't walk around thinking we are going to fall down a flight of steps or get cancer, but unfortunately those things happen. The wonderful medical miracles that we have today are not inexpensive and we want people to be protective about that and that's what this program is really about.

Richard Ruelas: Some awareness might come from the hammer that might fall if you don't have health insurance.

David Sayen: Correct, there is a requirement of an individual responsibility payment for people who can afford health insurance and don't take advantage of the opportunity to get it. There is a penalty associated with that. And that is a factor. But that is not what we are really focused on. We want people to be covered.

Richard Ruelas: Sure, sure, but I imagine now we're into the time where the penalty is kicking in, when we see the penalty increase, why am I paying this? I should be aware. An awareness tool but not being used for that purpose currently.

David Sayen: Correct, people that are filing their taxes for 2014, that could have had insurance and didn't are going to pay a $95 penalty or one percent of income, whatever is greater.

Richard Ruelas: For those who have gone through it, are we seeing people stay with the marketplace or are they finding insurance outside through their workplace? I guess how many resign-ups do you have, people happy with what they get?

David Sayen: Out of the 170,000, 130 or so are people that were in the program last year and just stayed in the plan they were in or maybe switched plans. So, we're certainly happy with that. And from what we understand, people are satisfied with the coverage that they have. Remember here in Arizona, 76% of the people in the marketplace are taking advantage of the subsidy. And nationally it is even more. 87%. So people --

Richard Ruelas: You mean people who are able to get government help to buy this insurance plan?

David Sayen: Correct. These are people that enrolled into insurance through the marketplace and getting an advanced premium tax subsidy that buys down their premium.

Richard Ruelas: The fact that we are underneath the nation, number is below the national average, what do is that tell us about Arizona?

David Sayen: I think it is more an artifact of the actual plans. Subsidy is key to the second least expensive plan in the so-called silver tier. And Arizona has a very low-priced plans there in year one. That made the subsidy amount lower. It has to do with the way the plans are distributed in the state.

Richard Ruelas: The price of the plan --

David Sayen: Not just the income.

Richard Ruelas: Is there an indication that there is uninsured out there to have yet to take a peek at this stuff?

David Sayen: We're quite sure that there are. That is who we want to reach. Nationally subsidy is up to 87%.

Richard Ruelas: If I have already signed up, have the plan prices drop? If I have insurance somewhere else, is it worth a quick peek --

David Sayen: That is an important aspect -- we have transparency around insurance prices. You can compare what you are paying. That is important to do. Overall premiums are a little less. 4% in Phoenix than they were last year. Lots of people could benefit by switching to a cheaper plan.

Richard Ruelas: Healthcare.GOV before the 15th.

David Sayen: Correct.

Richard Ruelas: Thank you for joining us this evening.

David Sayen: Thank you.

Richard Ruelas: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," Banner hospitals and the U of A health care system are merging. And a new memorial to a former governor will be dedicated on statehood day . That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." Have a good evening.

David Sayen:Regional Administrator for Arizona, Medicare;

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