California: @CoveredCA confirms over 155K have enrolled via #COVID19 SEP since 3/20, plus 68K via other SEPs since 1/31

On April 14th, Covered California reported that 58,000 residents had enrolled in ACA exchange coverage during their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, of which roughly 20,000 did so via standard SEPs (losing coverage, moving, getting married/divorced, etc), while an additional 38,000 took advantage of the COVID-specific SEP.

On April 28th, they announced that the number was up to 84,000 new ACA exchange enrollees, averaging around 2.5x as many as enrolled via standard Special Enrollment Periods during the same period a year ago.

On May 20th, they announced the total was up to 123,000 new ACA exchange enrollees via the COVID SEP, "nearly" 2.5x the rate of a year before.

Today they issued another update ahead of what I'm guessing will be the final deadline for their COVID-19 SEP on June 30th...and they've included some additional important data as well:

Covered California’s Enrollment Continues to Surge During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • More than 155,000 people have signed up for coverage through Covered California since the exchange announced a special-enrollment period in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The accelerated pace of sign-ups is more than 2 times higher than the level Covered California saw during the same time period in 2019.
  • Covered California also released special enrollment data for all 58 California counties, showing more than 223,000 people who have enrolled since open enrollment ended on Jan. 31.
  • The special-enrollment period runs through June 30, and consumers can enroll in as little as 30 minutes through CoveredCA.com or over the phone with the help  of one of Covered California’s Certified Insurance Agents or enrollers.

It's important to remember that Covered California had already announced an "open" SEP before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in response to their newly expanded/enhanced ACA exchange subsidies and newly-reimplemented individual mandate penalty. It was originally schedued to run through April 30th, but when the pandemic hit hard in March, they basically just extended the deadline and rebranded the SEP as a COVID-19 response.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced on Friday that 155,470 people had enrolled in health care coverage since the exchange announced a special-enrollment period in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pace of sign-ups during this time is more than 2 times higher than the level seen during the same period in 2019. 

“Covered California continues to enroll thousands of people every week, and we want to make sure everyone knows that they can still get access to the health care they need during this ongoing crisis,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “Whether you have lost your job-based health insurance, or you were uninsured when this crisis began, there is a path to coverage for you through Covered California or Medi-Cal.”  

The enrollment data covers the period from March 20, when Covered California opened the health insurance exchange to any eligible uninsured individuals who needed health care coverage amid the COVID-19 emergency, to June 5. Anyone who is uninsured and meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage through June 30.

Special-Enrollment Period 

Every year Covered California provides eligible consumers the opportunity to sign up for health care coverage, outside of the traditional open-enrollment period, if they experience a qualifying life event. These can include events like losing your health care coverage, moving, getting married or having a baby.  

Overall, since Covered California ended its open-enrollment period on Jan. 31, 223,050 people signed up for coverage through June 5, which is nearly two times as many as seen during the same time period as last year.  

CoveredCA has also provided a handy county-level year over year comparison of SEP enrollment; this is the first time I've seen this level of granularity on SEPs...I really wish every state-based exchange (as well as HealthCare.Gov) would provide SEP reports on a regular basis at at least the state level, if not county level!

Click here to see special enrollment data by county.

“We’re releasing data today that underscores that fact that the economic impacts of the pandemic are touching every part of the state,” Lee said. “We’re seeing a growth in enrollment from Alameda to Yuba County, and while it’s a stark picture of human need, the fact that California has established a true safety net for people who need health insurance is helping many across the state.” 

According to the linked table, statewide the totals have been:

  • Pre-COVID SEP: 67,580 from 2/01 - 3/19, or 23.6% higher than the same period in 2019 (~54,676, or 1,163/day)
  • COVID SEP: 155,470 from 3/20 - 6/05, or 125.3% higher than the same period in 2019 (~69,005, or 885/day)
  • Grand Total: 223,470 from 2/01 - 6/05, or 80.3% higher than the same period in 2019 (~123,704, or 990/day)

The averages from 2019 are also noteworthy as they show that historic SEP enrollment varies depending on the time of year...it was 31% higher per day in February/March 2019 than in April/May. I don't have enough historic data from CA or any other states to know whether this is a typical pattern or not, however.

In any event, between this press release and the one earlier this week out of Maryland, here's what the COVID-19-era SEP landscape looks like across the state exchanges which have released their data (just 8 out of 13, and of course zilch from HealthCare.Gov, which hasn't been allowing a COVID-19 specific SEP):

Based on the data I have from these states, at least 240,000 people have enrolled in ACA exchange coverage in them via SEPs since the COVID pandemic hit, which would extrapolate out to somewhere around 920,000 people nationally if HealthCare.Gov (and Your Health Idaho) were to launch one. Instead, the actual number is...presumably somewhere between 240K and 920K.

Signing Up for Health Care Coverage 

Consumers can easily enroll through CoveredCA.com and find out whether they are eligible for financial help through Covered California or if they are eligible for no-cost or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal. People who sign up through Covered California will have their coverage begin on the first day of the following month. Those eligible for Medi-Cal can have coverage that is effective retroactively to the first day of the month from when they submitted their application. 

In addition to enrolling online, consumers who need health care coverage can visit Covered California’s Find Help page to get assistance over the phone from one of Covered California’s thousands of Certified Insurance Agents. The “Help on Demand” feature allows consumers to get a call back from a certified agent or a trained enrollment counselor. 

Consumers can easily find out if they are eligible for Covered California or Medi-Cal, and see which plans are available in their area, by using the Shop and Compare Tool and entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage.  

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can also: 

  • Visit www.CoveredCA.com. 
  • Get free and confidential assistance over the phone, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller. 
  • ·Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free. 
  • Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.