DC residents are lucky for our city’s long history of expanding health coverage and pursuing policies that give access to medical care. One of the bright spots is DC Health Link, the healthcare exchange created after passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). DC Health Link is ranked as one of the best exchanges in the country at providing affordable, quality health plans to small businesses and residents.
With DC Health Link, you can make it your New Year’s resolution to focus on your health and the health of your family. Open enrollment for individuals through DC Health Link runs through Jan. 31. If you are a District resident in need of health insurance, visit www.dchealthlink.com to get enrolled and start 2020 with the peace of mind that comes with having healthcare coverage.
What Successful Health Coverage Looks Like
When the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the District quickly expanded Medicaid well above the minimum federal requirements. District lawmakers also chose to build a health insurance exchange designed by and for the residents it serves, rather than relying on the federal exchange. Today, residents with incomes up to 200% of poverty (319% for a family of three) can get free coverage through Medicaid. And individuals and families with incomes above Medicaid income eligibility and up to 400% of poverty (between $55,363 and $83,120 for a family of three) can get help paying for private coverage.
DC Health Link provides health insurance to more than 20,000 residents through the individual marketplace and almost 95,000 through the small business marketplace.
The positive results are clear. Since DC Health Link opened in 2013, the uninsured rate has been cut in half. The District now ranks second best in the nation in insurance coverage – with almost 97% of residents covered.
DC Has Resisted Efforts to Roll Back the ACA
This success comes from fully embracing the Affordable Care Act – even in the face of recent federal efforts to weaken it – with the shared belief that everyone in DC should succeed.
The federal government shortened its open enrollment period to six weeks, but the District provides residents three full months. That means open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, during which time District residents can shop, compare and get covered.
While the federal government has slashed funding for outreach and enrollment events, DC Health Link assisters are blanketing the city to find people who don’t have coverage and get them enrolled before the open enrollment period ends. DC Health Link holds regular enrollment events, participates at community events across the District and is able to provide one-on-one help to any resident who requests it.
When the federal government cancelled the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, Mayor Bowser and the DC Council established a local individual responsibility requirement. This move helps everyone to get covered, which also holds down premium increases for all.
The federal government recently expanded short-term, limited duration plans and association health plans – often called “junk plans” as they aren’t required to offer essential health benefits or meet other vital consumer protection standards. The District quickly passed legislation to ensure those plans won’t flourish here.
DC Health Link also does a great job of offering plans that best fit the needs of businesses, individuals and families who know that deductibles can be a struggle. That’s why DC Health Link has introduced a standard plan option. Standard plans cover many in-network medical services without having to meet the deductible first. These services include primary care, specialist visits, generic drugs, urgent care, outpatient mental and behavior health and outpatient substance abuse treatment.
A Best Friend to Small Businesses
DC Health allows small businesses to compete with bigger businesses by offering employees quality health insurance. Time management is critical for all small businesses, and DC Health Link offers support tools to make the coverage process easy and efficient. At DCHealthLink.com, employers have an online eligibility check and cost calculator at their fingertips. Employees have tools to compare plans based on personal health needs, prescription drug needs and preferred doctors. Brokers are available to manage the enrollment process at no cost to small businesses.
DC Health Link allows employers to offer a really wide choice of health plans to employees – something only big businesses used to be able to do. There are 156 health plans offered by Aetna, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente and United Healthcare. Employers have options to offer choices among all plans at one metal level (platinum, gold, silver, bronze), all plans from one carrier, or one plan from one carrier. Even if every employee picks a different plan, the employer just gets one bill.
DC Health Link is a critical resource to help small businesses attract and retain talented employees. Also, healthy employees miss fewer days of work.
DC Health Link’s open enrollment runs through Jan. 31. Visit www.dchealthlink.com to shop, compare and enroll in coverage that meets your needs and budget. If you prefer one-on-one help, enrollment centers throughout the city offer free expert assistance. DC Health Link can also help by phone at 855-532-5465.
Small businesses, as well as individuals and families eligible for Medicaid, can enroll through www.dchealthlink.com throughout the year.
Ed Lazere is the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (www.dcfpi.org). DCFPI promotes budget and policy solutions to reduce poverty and inequality in the District of Columbia and increase opportunities for residents to build a better future.