Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell Remark at the ACA Champions for Change event.
Photo by Chris Smith/Department of Health and Human Services

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell answered your questions

Updated

Healthcare.gov, also known as the main website for Obamacare, just celebrated its first anniversary and the program is in the spotlight again. Despite millions enrolled during its first year, some on the right in Congress have already begun to call once again for Obamacare’s repeal. 

But in the meantime, the open enrollment period for the second year of the health care program has begun, and consumers are navigating Healthcare.gov to sign up for insurance for 2015. 

On Thursday, Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell answered your questions about the Affordable Care Act and open enrollment in a live Facebook chat moderated by msnbc’s Chris Hayes. 

Here’s a recap of the discussion!

Chris Hayes: So, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services there was a report today from Bloomberg about ACA enrollment data, that revealed HHS had accidentally included 400,000 w dental plans in the total for ACA enrollment, thereby pushing the number over 7 million (which was the goal), while the actual number was 6.97 million. So: how did this happen. And, can you understand people’s skepticism this was a mistake, given that the inclusion of those dental plans pushed enrollment over the 7 million goal figure

Secretary Burwell: This mistake was unacceptable. I will be communicating that clearly throughout the department. While we understand some will be skeptical, our clarity that this is mistake and the fact that we have quickly corrected the numbers should give people confidence. It is important to continue to focus on the fact that millions of Americans are getting affordable health care.

Chris Hayes: Are you going to investigate how the dental enrollment error happened and make those findings public?

Secretary Burwell:  I have indicated this is unacceptable. I am communicating this clearly throughout the department. We will be putting in place measures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again after we understand why it happened. We are continuing to focus on making sure that the consumer has a quality experience and is able to find affordable health coverage through healthcare.govlocalhelp.healthcare.gov (where you can find local assistance) or through 800 318 2596.

Chris Hayes: This is the second open enrollment for the ACA exchanges. What’s the biggest difference between last year and this year? (aside from a functioning website)

Secretary Burwell:  We are very focused on the customer this year, both in terms of operational function of the website and consumers ability to shop, compare and enroll with greater ease. We increased our website testing from 10 days to 5 weeks. For consumers coming back to reenroll (yes, that is new this year too!) most consumers will have their information 90% prepopulated meaning they won’t have to reenter a lot of information. Also, there are 25% more issuers this year.

Chris Hayes lemme summarize a whole bunch of questions from people in the thread who are currently enrolled in the exchanges and wanna know: “Why is my premium going up this year?”

Secretary Burwell:  Before the ACA premiums increased often in the double digits. The marketplace provides increased choice and competition as well as financial assistance - that is what makes the marketplace unique. With 25% more issuers in the marketplace we encourage people to go in and shop, both new and those consumers returnng to the marketplace to make sure that they shop to find the plans and premiums that are best for them.

Emily Samsel: What is the penalty for being uninsured in 2015?

Secretary Burwell: $325 per person or 2% of your taxable household income whichever is greater.

Veronikka M ZiolAre you going to stop allowing insurers to discriminate against trans people? In other words, will you force insurers to drop the exclusions for trans healthcare in their policies? Or will we still be uninsured even if we have insurance?”

Secretary Burwell: We’ve made progress on ensuring the transgender population can get coverage. Often insurers considered being transgender to be a “pre existing condition”. Thanks to the ACA the law prohibitis insurers from discriminating against pre-existing conditions, and that includes being transgender. The Administration is committed to transgender and gender equality and will continue to work on these issues.

Emily Robinson: Will I, as a rising college student, see any specific benefits outside of being able to keep my parents’ insurance until I’m 26? Obviously money is a volatile topic for college students what with the astronomic costs of tuition, textbooks, etc., but are there any specific benefits for people like me included in the ACA?

Secretary Burwell: Absolutely. You may be able to get preventive services without a copay (assuming you are a woman  that includes things like a pap smear), you don’t have worry about pre existing conditions exclusions, you don’t have to worry about differential premiums because you are a woman. There are no life time dollar limits or annual limits. There also is the ability to shop and compare plans and their premiums and deductibles on the marketplace. AND you may be eligible for financial assistance paying your premiums. Many young people are.

Affordable Care Act and Obamacare

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell answered your questions

Updated