Tom Wolf

Tom Wolf

With flu season around the corner, and open enrollment well under way, the Wolf administration is urging Pennsylvanians without health insurance to sign up for coverage before the opportunity passes them by.

“The whole idea behind this is peace of mind,” the Democratic governor, flanked by Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica K. Altman, said during a Capitol news conference on Thursday. “If you’ve ever had an unexplained ache or pain, you know what a worry that can be.” Throw in a lack of coverage, and that worry can multiply and become hugely costly, he added.

Pennsylvanians have until Dec. 15 to shop for, and sign up for, coverage through the federal Affordable Care Act exchange.This marks the last enrollment period for Pennsylvanians on the federal exchange. Next year, state residents will be able to sign up for coverage through a state-run exchange that was signed into law with bipartisan support earlier this year.

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Most Pennsylvanians, nearly 80 percent, may qualify for subsidies if they do not receive coverage through their employer or some other state or federally run program, Altman said Thursday. The Insurance Department has set up an online Consumers’ Checkbook to shop for coverage and to compare plans, she said.

“Foregoing insurance is a significant risk, even for healthy people,” she warned.

Altman urged consumers to stay away from private plans that bragged about low-cost coverage, but fail to deliver on such essentials as maternal- or newborn-care; coverage for preexisting conditions, or mental or behavioral health coverage.

“ is the only place to go for robust Affordable Care Act coverage,” she said, referring to the federal healthcare exchange.

Wolf touted the state’s efforts expand access to care, including a Medicaid expansion that allowed tens of thousands of people without insurance to obtain coverage. He also laced into ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act — even though neither the White House, nor its Republican allies on Capitol Hill, have been able to muster the votes for an acceptable replacement.

“Our uninsured rate has fallen to just 5.5 percent, the lowest on record for Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “Until that rate is at zero, I will continue to fight for affordable health care coverage for every Pennsylvanian.

John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

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