Editor's note: Open enrollment on the federal health insurance marketplace started on Saturday, Nov. 15. The Health News Florida team is kicking off a series about the second year of open enrollment under the federal health law. First, we take a look at HealthCare.gov, the website that people in Florida and 36 other states use to buy a health insurance plan. This year, open enrollment runs for three months, until Feb. 15, 2015.
Phil Ammann, a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, was one of nearly a million Floridians who bought a plan on the federal exchange for 2014. And now, he has to shop for a new plan.
"Well, I had insurance for a year, and got a letter from my insurance company saying that they're no longer going to be carrying my policy, one of the bronze level policies, and I will have to go this year, again, to get new insurance,” he said.
In 2013, he bought a bronze plan from Coventry One, an inexpensive plan he said wasn't ideal, but it took care of some necessary medical expenses.
"I had a colonoscopy this year, as is somebody my age, the doctor says you gotta have it done, so he was very glad to hear I had the insurance and I promptly went and had the procedure done and fortunately everything came out perfect,” said Ammann, who said he put off the test because it would have cost him $1,500 without insurance.
Like 91 percent of Floridians who bought a plan on HealthCare.gov, he was eligible for federal tax credits that helped pay for part of his monthly premiums. Even more critical than the premium help, he said, was the the piece of the Affordable Care Act that says people can’t be denied coverage based on "pre-existing" conditions.
"That single change alone is most important to me personally,” he said. “I've dealt with high blood pressure since my early 30s."
And up until last year, he says health insurance companies could either flat out deny him, or ask him to pay really expensive premiums.
He’s not the only one who should be checking HealthCare.gov, according to Sabrina Corlette, the project director at Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms.
"For people who are enrolled, most of them, in fact probably all of them, are going to need to go back to the marketplace or HealthCare.gov to check their information and make sure that it's up to date, and they're going to need to re-enroll in a health plan,” she said.
A check of HealthCare.gov for Ammann’s zip code in Pinellas County lists plans available from Assurant, Cigna, Florida Blue, Humana and United Healthcare.
Coventry One, the company Ammann went with last year, is nowhere on the list.
The move to stop selling Coventry One, an Aetna-branded plan, in Pinellas County through HealthCare.gov was a "business decision,” according to Aetna’s public relations.
A disclaimer at the top of HealthCare.gov says this: “Important: The premiums below are only estimates. You’ll need to fill out a Marketplace application to get actual plan prices. Some plans and details you see here may change.”
Without taking into account any tax subsidies to help pay for premiums, the plans range from $373 to $814 a month.
"I guess it's going to go back to square one, and on Nov. 15, get on the exchange, and start over again and find out what my subsidy level will be based upon my tax returns,” Ammann said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most Americans have to be enrolled in a health insurance plan, or they'll face a penalty. In 2015, the penalty increases to 2 percent of your household income, or $325, whichever is greater.
For Ammann, and anyone else shopping on HealthCare.gov who need their coverage to start Jan. 1, they have to enroll by Dec. 15.