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Open Enrollment For Health Insurance Underway In Pennsylvania

Ronald Pederson (left) gets help signing up for health insurance from navigator Christian Fattore on March 17, 2014.

Open enrollment is now underway for Pennsylvanians looking to purchase health insurance coverage for 2021. But instead of the federal marketplace people will be shopping on Pennie, the new state-run exchange.

Residents of the commonwealth have purchased individual insurance policies through the federal exchange ever since it launched in 2013, via the Affordable Care Act. But earlier this year the Wolf Administration was granted federal permission to create a state-run exchange.

Instead of paying the federal government to participate in its marketplace, officials said Pennsylvania will save upwards of $40 million by operating its own. These savings are passed on to consumers.

The state’s department of insurance said costs would have been 5.3 percent higher in 2021 if Pennsylvania had remained on the federal exchange. But because of Pennie, the department said the average cost of individual polices fell by an average of 2.6 percent, while the price of small group polices increased by 2.2 percent.

The creation of Pennie has also given the Wolf Administration more latitude to set deadlines. Instead of mid-December, people can purchase insurance through Jan. 15.

However, there's a wrinkle in all of this. The ACA is again coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The state of Texas argues that because in 2017 Congress removed the individual mandate -- a tax penalty for people who are uninsured -- this invalidated the entire ACA.

It will likely take the court months to decide on the case. Even if justices rule in Texas's favor, a decision might be narrowly crafted, leaving large portions of the ACA intact. Or the entire law might be struck down which almost certainly would end Pennie, as well as protections for pre-existing conditions and the prohibition on lifetime caps for insurance coverage.