PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A new state program to provide health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is about to begin its enrollment period.
The program is called Pennie, and it is an effort to provide more insurance options at lower prices to the uninsured in Pennsylvania.
Nearly 300,000 Pennsylvanians have insurance through Healthcare.gov or Obamacare. But under a new bipartisan state program, they will soon become part of Pennie.com, a state-run health insurance marketplace that could be a better deal.
"Pennie will be the sole place for Pennsylvanians to access high-quality, affordable coverage and financial assistance to help pay for it," Zachary Sherman, executive director of Pennie, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Financed by the federal ACA, the state-run Pennie promises more insurance plans at lower costs.
"Premiums in 2021 will be five percent lower than they would have been without this program," says Sherman.
Open enrollment begins Nov. 1, and state customer service will be better than the feds, who must deal with customers from 30 states.
"That's the goal. That's very much the intent," says Sherman.
Healthcare.gov customers will need to re-enroll and Pennie.com is open to anyone needing health insurance.
Consumer health advocates like the new program.
"If you have a pre-existing condition, you can't be denied coverage. You can't be charged more. You're guaranteed essential health benefits, so prescription drugs, behavioral health, all of that is covered," says Antoinette Kraus, executive director of Pennsylvania Health Access Network and a member of the Pennie board of directors.
Those protections could disappear if the Supreme Court declares the ACA unconstitutional as President Donald Trump has requested, and Pennie could go, too.
"Unfortunately, the legislation that was passed in Pennsylvania has a clause that if the ACA is struck down in any way, unfortunately, Pennie would end," says Kraus.
In the meantime, Pennie.com may offer the best health insurance around for many.
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