But the ACA changed all that. Medical underwriting is no longer used, although applicants can now only enroll during open enrollment or a special enrollment period triggered by a qualifying event (similar to how enrollment works for employer-sponsored plans). Essential health benefits are now covered on all new individual major medical plans in every state. And millions of people are receiving premium subsidies that cover the majority of their premiums for plans purchased in each state’s health insurance exchange (the ACA’s consumer protection reforms apply to plans sold outside the exchanges as well, but the subsidies are only available in the exchange). The ACA also limits the percentage of premiums that insurers can use for administrative costs, including profits and executives’ salaries; insurers have refunded billions of dollars to consumers as a result of the new rules.
For those who don’t have access to employer-sponsored plans, coverage on the individual market is an option. This market has changed dramatically as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to 2014, in most states, individual coverage was medically underwritten, which meant that coverage was only available for purchase if the applicant was at least fairly healthy, as the insurance companies would closely scrutinize your complete medical history when you applied. Coverage in the individual market was typically not as robust as employer-sponsored health insurance; maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health care were often missing from the coverage. And people who purchased individual market coverage prior to 2014 had to pay the whole premium themselves.