Obamacare sign-ups start Nov. 1

Open enrollment extends through Dec. 15 in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and through Jan. 31 in New York


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With GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, dominating the conversation in Washington, D.C., it's easy to miss that it's still the law of the land.

You can still sign up for Obamacare during the next enrollment period, set to begin on Nov. 1. All you have to do is visit HealthCare.gov.

And while President Trump has moved to end federal subsidies, they are still being provided for 2018. The subsidies decrease out-of-pocket costs for people with low incomes, which is expected to keep their premiums from increasing next year.

Also intact, for now, are the tax credits that help reduce the cost of premiums for middle-income people.

The Trump administration shrunk the enrollment period. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which use the federal marketplace at HealthCare.gov, the end date for open enrollment is Dec. 15, 2017.

New York extended its enrollment period to Jan. 31, 2018, with sign ups at nystateofhealth.ny.gov.

"While the federal government has cut the 2018 open enrollment period in half, New York looks to build on its success and is exercising its authority to extend the deadline," said a statement from the NYS Department of Health. A longer enrollment period has been shown to increase enrollment of younger people, it said.

Medicaid eligibility rules have not changed in the states that expanded Medicaid, like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, despite the efforts of GOP leaders in Congress to repeal the expansion.

Premiums for individual plans increaseIn Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is blaming President Trump for a sharp increase in the cost of health insurance for residents who buy individual plans.

Wolf's administration released the approved 2018 rates on Oct. 16, saying the average increase will be just over 30 percent. The administration says the increase would've been less than 8 percent if Trump hadn't halted cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers or created uncertainty around the fate of the individual mandate. Increases in small group plan rates will average 7.6 percent in 2018.

In a statement, Wolf accused Congress of being complicit in the rate increases because it didn't appropriate the cost-sharing reduction payments that Trump is ending.

The Trump administration, in its hostility to Obamacare, made deep cuts to funds that would have been used to advertise Obamacare signups and hire workers to help customers enroll.

Some insurers who participate in the Affordable Care Act are raising premiums by more than 50 percent for 2018, mostly because of all the uncertainty surrounding the law's future. These premium hikes will affect those who do not quality for subsidies.

Every American is still required to carry health insurance or face a tax penalty of at least $695 per adult. Plans re available on the exchanges in every county.

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