Douglas County consumers only have one ACA insurance option for 2019, but won’t be fined for not enrolling

photo by: Associated Press

This Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 photo shows website on a computer screen in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Douglas County residents looking to purchase health insurance through the federal marketplace will find they really only have one option for 2019.

Through the Affordable Care Act, Kansas has two health insurance companies providing care to state residents, but one of those companies, Medica, will not consider Douglas County medical providers as in-network, said Brian Edie, a local insurance agent.

Last year, Medica provided some out-of-network benefits and included Douglas County health providers in its network, but this year it will not.

The change means Douglas County residents will need to use Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas to get coverage if they plan to use medical providers within the county. Additionally, neither company will provide any out-of-network coverage, he said.

The open enrollment period for health insurance began Nov. 1 and will close Dec. 15. Those who purchase a health insurance plan during that period will have health insurance policies that begin Jan. 1, 2019.

Edie said the companies’ coverage adjustment is the biggest change he’s seen for the 2019 enrollment period, noting the costs for 2019 are similar to the current year.

“It looks to be fairly similar,” Edie said of the costs. “There seems to be some of an increase, but it doesn’t seem to be a 30 to 40 percent increase that we’ve seen in years past.”

Those who don’t want to sign up for health care coverage for 2019 will notice a difference at tax time. Starting next year, those who are not enrolled in a health insurance plan will not be fined for it, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said in a news release.

As part of the tax overhaul President Donald Trump signed into law last year, a fine associated with the Affordable Care Act was taken off the books for the 2019 calendar year.

Currently, those who do not have health insurance during the 2018 calendar year will be charged either $695 per individual or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater, according to H & R Block. The penalty will be charged when they report their taxes in spring 2019. The same penalty won’t be charged in spring 2020 and beyond.

“If consumers don’t have major medical health insurance for the 2019 coverage year, they will be on their own for major health care costs, but they won’t be penalized at tax time,” Selzer said.

Other changes to health insurance in 2019 include shorter-term coverage options.

Short-term, limited duration options offer lower premiums for consumers, but they won’t cover as much, Selzer said. Those options are not available through the federal marketplace, but Kansans may see them offered elsewhere, he said.

“While they’re typically cheaper than the marketplace and other individual market health plans, there are usually limited benefits, broader exclusions and higher levels of consumer cost-sharing,” Selzer said. “Before signing up for a short-term plan, it’s important to think through what health care services you and your family may need and check whether those services are covered.”

Edie said the short-term, a la carte plans aren’t really health insurance but may offer some benefit to people who want to spend less money.

Selzer encourages those who have questions about enrollment to contact the Consumer Assistance Division of the Kansas Insurance Department at 800-432-2484 or through the chat feature on the department’s website,


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