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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ: http://kjzz.org/science

Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Rises, While Plans Offered In Yuma County Drop

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Amanda Solliday - KAWC
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Dec. 17 marks the extended deadline for enrolling in a federally-administered Health Insurance Marketplace plan to receive coverage on Jan. 1.

Despite more consumers shopping for health insurance plans, those in Yuma County see fewer options available.

In Arizona, federal data show nearly 95,000 individuals selected plans as of Dec. 12 – days prior to the original deadline. This is already about 30 percent more than the number of plans selected by new and returning customers before last year’s deadline.

The insurance carriers available in a given county are still shifting in the young marketplace, three years after its initial launch.

The Regional Center for Border Health is a community organization in Yuma County with certified application counselors, or promotores, who help consumers navigate enrollment.

“We get everybody and anybody that’s uninsured, specifically, people within our community – migrant farmworkers, recent immigrants," said Alex Valenzuela, director of social work.

“We saw a lot of plans drop out, so a lot of plans that provided health coverage options last year are not providing health coverage this year,” he added.

Valenzuela said plans with the highest level of coverage were discontinued statewide, as well as some plans with few sales or low premiums that health insurers deemed unprofitable.

In Yuma County, two health insurance companies are offering 15 plans in 2016. During last year’s open enrollment, 9 companies appeared to offer 66 plans on the marketplace for Yuma.

Part of this decrease can be attributed to statewide "ghost plans.” Although the plans showed up on the marketplace for Yuma County in 2015, no Arizona doctors in the network were available in the area.

These plans were removed from Healthcare.gov and CuidadoDeSalud.gov for Yuma during the current enrollment period.

The open enrollment period ends Jan. 31. You can make an appointment with a certified application counselor by visiting coveraz.org.