2020 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

2020 Open Enrollment Window Shopping now LIVE at HealthCare.Gov

A week or so ago I  noted that several of the 13 state-based exchanges (remember, Nevada split off of HC.gov this year) had opened up their ACA exchange websites for prospective enrollees to window shop for 2020 coverage. One of them, Covered California, actually started allowing people to enroll already; the rest were for comparison shopping only.

Well, as of today, residents of every state can window shop for 2020 healthcare policies, because HealthCare.Gov has followed suit and is now letting you plug in your household & income info to see what plans are available next year, what the unsubsidized premiums are, and (most importantly for a lot of people) what sort of financial assistance you may be eligible for.

There have been some interesting modifications to the interface and workflow of HC.gov this year:

FEDERAL HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE 2020 OPEN ENROLLMENT 

  • Window shopping begins with quality rating information displayed on HealthCare.gov across states for the first time 

The Federal Health Insurance Exchange (also known as the Marketplace) Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1, 2019 to December 15, 2019, for coverage starting on January 1, 2020. Similar to previous years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking a strategic and cost-effective approach to inform individuals about Open Enrollment, deliver a smooth enrollment experience, and use consumer feedback to drive ongoing improvements across the Exchange platform. Consumers can visit HealthCare.gov and CuidadodeSalud.gov to preview 2020 plans and prices before Open Enrollment begins and for the first time HealthCare.gov will also display quality rating information in states that use HealthCare.gov, expanding the information available for consumers in their decision-making when comparing health coverage choices.

NEW THIS YEAR

Key Updates and Enhancements to Healthcare.gov for the 2020 Open Enrollment

Quality Rating Information Displayed in HealthCare.gov States
Quality ratings will be displayed on HealthCare.gov when consumers view the list of plans available in their area in HealthCare.gov states this year. Under the five-star Quality Rating System, Exchange health plans are given an overall rating on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 stars representing highest quality. The overall star rating is based on three categories: Medical Care, Member Experience and Plan Administration.  In some cases — such as when plans are new to the Exchange or have low enrollment — ratings may not be available. 

Star ratings in the Exchange help make it easy for consumers to compare health coverage choices by giving consumers a snapshot of how each health plan’s quality compares to that of other Exchange plans in each state in a given year. A quality rating of 3 or above means that a health plan is considered average or above average as compared to other plans across the country. For the 2020 coverage year, 80 percent of plans eligible to receive a rating of at least 3 stars.  Similar to national quality reporting programs due to the time needed to collect and analyze survey and clinical quality measure data, the data CMS uses to calculate star ratings is based on plan performance data from two years prior. When shopping for a plan in 2020, consumers should keep in mind that star ratings displayed on HealthCare.gov are generally based on how the plan performed in prior years.

HealthCare.gov will display the Overall Rating with the number of stars from 1 to 5 filled in towards the top of each plan, or let the consumer know if the individual plan hasn’t been rated.  Consumers can see three additional star ratings for Member Experience, Medical Care, and Plan Administration which comprises the Overall Rating when selecting an individual plan’s detailed information along with other coverage and benefits. The Overall Rating and the three additional quality rating categories are also displayed when consumers choose to compare up to three plans side-by-side.

Expanded Streamlined HealthCare.gov Application
As part of the continued commitment to improving the customer experience, the streamlined application on HealthCare.gov is expanded this year to handle nearly all consumer applications, both simple and more complex eligibility scenarios.  The streamlined application provides improved content and integrates help information throughout the application in order to provide a more seamless enrollment experience from start to finish, as well as enhanced mobile optimization.   CMS will continue to make enhancements to the application based on consumer feedback and testing.

Visual Refresh of Consumer Shopping Experience
This year, the visual experience for consumers when they preview plans (“See plans & prices”) and shop, compare and enroll on HealthCare.gov has been refreshed based on consumer research and feedback. The visual refresh provides a more consistent user experience throughout the entire enrollment process on HealthCare.gov that includes updates to filters, the plan results list, improved help content and enhanced mobile optimization.

Enhanced Direct Enrollment (EDE) Expanded
Enhanced Direct Enrollment (EDE) will be available throughout the entire Open Enrollment Period for the first time this year.  This key development allows CMS to partner with the private sector to provide more avenues for consumers to apply and shop for Exchange coverage.  Through the EDE pathway, consumers have the option to apply for and enroll in an Exchange plan directly through an approved issuer or web-broker without the need to be redirected to HealthCare.gov or to contact the Exchange Call Center. This year, more approved partners are offering EDE-capable websites. As of October 25, CMS has approved more than 5 private sector partners to operate an EDE pathway.

The safety and security of consumer information is our number one priority.  Enhanced direct enrollment partners are required to undergo rigorous audits to ensure compliance with strict privacy and security controls prior to being certified to use this new platform.  CMS continuously monitors each partner to ensure they remain in compliance with CMS requirements.

New resources about Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA)
New rules released this year permit employers to fund individual market premiums for their employees through a new type of HRAs – Individual Coverage HRAs.  CMS is adding educational information and a consumer worksheet tool to assist employees in determining whether to use an individual coverage HRA from their employer to help pay for coverage. HRAs are employer-funded accounts from which employees are reimbursed tax-free for qualified medical expenses. 

Consumer Tools and Support

Window Shopping
On October 25, 2019, CMS launched updates to window shopping (the “See plans & prices” page on HealthCare.gov) which allow consumers to preview 2020 plans and prices before Open Enrollment begins. As in previous years, window shopping lets consumers browse plans without logging in, creating an account, or filling out the official application.  Starting November 1, consumers can log in to HealthCare.gov and CuidadodeSalud.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 to fill out an application and enroll in a 2020 Exchange health plan.

Consumer Call Center
The Call Center is often the front line of assistance for consumers as they apply for coverage and compare plan options. For the last two consecutive Open Enrollments, the consumer satisfaction rate remained at all-time high – averaging 90 percent – throughout the entire Open Enrollment Period.  In order to help prepare the Call Center representatives to handle high consumer demand, CMS will continue providing extensive training to Call Center staff prior to Open Enrollment and weekly refreshers throughout the Open Enrollment Period.   

In addition to the Call Center, in-person assistance will continue to be available to help consumers with enrollment. This includes local agents and brokers, Certified Application Counselors, and federally-funded Navigators.   

Helping Consumers Connect with Agents & Brokers
CMS will continue to partner with a third party to offer the “Help On Demand” services from agents and brokers.  This service allows consumers to choose to request that an agent or broker in their area contact them directly for help applying and enrolling.  Registered agents and brokers are able to set times when they’re available and then reach out to consumers who expressed interest in assistance. 

Learn more about Help On Demand services. 

Find Local Help
Find Local Help is a tool that allows consumers to search by city and state or ZIP code to see a list of local people and organizations who can help them enroll in coverage. Consumers can search for a specific person or organization by entering their name and can filter the results based on their preferences and services provided. Additionally, consumers can filter agents and brokers by their minimum years of participation on the Federal Exchange.

Financial Assistance
Premium tax credits will be available in 2020 for individuals who qualify. Consumers can continue to use Exchange coverage and take advantage of its benefits, including premium tax credits. Plans available from insurance companies will continue to reflect reduced copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles for eligible consumers.  

Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)
Similar to previous years, employers will be able to enroll directly with an issuer, or with a SHOP-registered agent or broker. HealthCare.gov allows small business employers to preview available SHOP plans and find an issuer or agent/broker to work with to offer SHOP coverage to their employees. Quality rating information will also be available for SHOP plans. 

Open Enrollment Notices 

Each year, the Federal Health Insurance Exchange sends notices to consumers who are currently enrolled in a plan prior to November 1 about the upcoming Open Enrollment Period. This notice provides consumers with the dates for this year’s Open Enrollment and the importance of returning during this time to update their application and actively re-enroll in a plan for 2020. The notice also provides consumers with customized messaging for their situation, such as if they’re at risk of losing tax credits. Consumers receive additional notices from their current issuer with important information about premiums, coverage and benefit changes, and plan availability for 2020.  

Examples of consumer notices

Automatic Re-enrollment Process

Similar to previous years, current enrollees who don’t update their application and enroll in a plan by the December 15, 2019 deadline generally will be automatically enrolled in the same plan or another plan offered by the same issuer that is intended to be similar, and if that is not available, another plan with a different insurance company.  Consumers who are currently enrolled are strongly encouraged to come back and update their information, shop, and pick a plan that best suits their health care needs before the deadline. Consumers who miss the deadline to actively re-enroll in a plan of their choice during Open Enrollment will not be able to make any plan changes until the next coverage year unless they qualify for certain Special Enrollment Periods. The Exchange sends a notice alerting consumers who were automatically re-enrolled.

Consumers whose 2019 issuer doesn’t have a plan available to them for 2020 will receive a discontinuation notice from their current issuer by the start of Open Enrollment. Those consumers may also receive a letter from the Exchange notifying them that they have been matched with an alternate plan from a different issuer to help avoid a gap in coverage. These consumers generally will need to pay their premium for January in order for their 2020 coverage to begin. Consumers are not under any obligation to stay with the new plan and are encouraged to take action and choose a plan by December 15. Consumers whose issuer isn’t offering their plan in 2020 are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period due to losing coverage and have the opportunity to choose a different plan.  

Marketing and Outreach
CMS plans to spend $10 million on marketing and outreach for the upcoming Open Enrollment Period, matching the same level of spending for the past two years. CMS will continue to use similar marketing tactics that focus funding and attention on the most strategic and efficient ways to reach consumers. This year’s outreach and education campaign will target people who are uninsured as well as those planning to reenroll in health plans, with a special focus on young and healthy consumers. CMS has committed resources to proven high impact, low cost digital outreach efforts including short YouTube videos, social media, and mobile and search advertising.  

CMS will also continue to use direct response methods including email, text messaging and autodial messages. Targeted email has proven to be the most cost efficient and effective way to reach consumers. As part of this effort, CMS will send most consumers emails throughout each week, with increasing frequency as the December 15 deadline approaches. CMS will also reinforce educational messaging through ongoing text messages and provide reminder calls encouraging consumers to take action before the deadline. 

HealthCare.gov Scheduled Maintenance Windows
Every year, CMS establishes scheduled maintenance windows that provide periods of time when CMS and its partners can make updates or resolve issues. Maintenance will only occur within these windows when deemed necessary to provide consumers with a better shopping experience. Consumer access to HealthCare.gov may be limited or restricted when this maintenance is required. Regularly scheduled maintenance will continue to be planned for the lowest-traffic time periods on HealthCare.gov, which are Sunday mornings.

The purpose in scheduling these times is to minimize any consumer disruption. Like other IT systems, these scheduled maintenance windows are how CMS updates and improves our system to run optimally and are the normal course of business.

HealthCare.gov Waiting Rooms
Similar to previous years, CMS may deploy a “waiting room” for some consumers who are logging in or creating an account on HealthCare.gov if website traffic becomes high enough to impact the consumer experience. The waiting room is one tool CMS utilizes to optimize a consumers’ experience because it allows CMS to control the volume of users on HealthCare.gov resulting in better performance of the website. If they are in a waiting room, consumers will see a message asking them to stay on the page. The waiting room will refresh when a consumer can continue to apply and enroll with a smooth experience.