COVID-19

Over the years, I've estimated that even during the off-season (that is, outside of the official annual ACA Open Enrollment Period window), around 7,000 - 9,000 Americans typically enroll in ACA exchange coverage each and every day via Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs).

SEPs are typically a 60-day enrollment window during which you're eligible to #GetCovered via your state's ACA exchange if you have a Qualifying Life Experience (QLE), such as losing your existing healthcare coverage; getting married or divorced (and thus losing your current coverage); giving birth or adopting a child (to add them to your policy); turning 26 and being dropped from your parents plan; moving outside of your current state or rating area; getting out of prison or the military; becoming ineligible for Medicaid due to your income increasing; and a few other reasons.

One by one, the dozen or so states which had either already implemented work requirement programs for Medicaid expansion enrollees or which were planning on doing so have either "delayed" or dropped those requirements entirely, either by force due to a federal judge ruling against them, or "voluntarily" due to them seeing the writing on the wall and realizing that a federal judge was going to rule against them in the near future.

Every state except one, that is: Utah.

Utah passed ACA Medicaid expansion solidly back in 2018...and they passed a "clean" version, which was supposed to mean anyone earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line would be eligible, and the program wouldn't have any barriers or hurdles like work requirements and so forth.

As I noted a few days ago, lately 95% of what I'm analyzing and writing about is the ongoing horror of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since tracking and analyzing data is what I'm best known for...and since I'm mostly stuck sitting in front of the computer all day whether I like it or not these days anyway...I've started my own daily COVID-19 spreadsheet. I've added a big yellow banner at the top of the site which links to it.

Again, I'm not the one who compiled the data itself--many other teams with far better resources than I have are doing that--but I'm pulling their work together and adding some additional context, such as per capita info by state/territory.

On March 16th, New York's ACA exchange, NY State of Health, announced that they'd be launching a COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period with a deadline of April 15th.

Today, on top of several other state-based exchanges bumping out their COVID SEP deadlines, it appears that NY is doing so as well. This is hardly surprising given that the state has been slammed the hardest of any in the country by the pandemic.

There's no official press release or announcement as of yet, but according to Bloomberg News, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement at a press conference today:

12:02:30 pm - Angelica LaVito Health-Care Reporter  @angelicalavito

New York is extending open enrollment for health insurance through May 15, Cuomo says.

Update: Here's the official press release...there's some other important details included as well:

As I expected, Connect for Health Colorado, which had originally placed a deadline of April 3rd on their COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Period, has extended that deadline out until the end of April:

Connect for Health Colorado Extends Emergency Special Enrollment Period until April 30 in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

DENVER — Due to the growing number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and increased need for health coverage, Connect for Health Colorado will extend an Emergency Special Enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans until Thursday, April 30, 2020. 

Since March 20, approximately 5,200 individuals protected their health and safety by signing up for a health insurance plan through this Special Enrollment period. People who enroll during the extended timeframe will have coverage as of May 1. 

Back on March 10th, Washington State, which was one of the first states hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, was also the first state with their own full ACA exchange to announce a Special Enrollment Period specifically in response to the crisis. It originally was scheduled to last about a month, with a deadline to #GetCovered of April 8th.

Today they extended that deadline by a full month, through May 8th, 2020:

Washington Healthplanfinder Extends Current Special Enrollment Period, Gives Extra Month for Uninsured to Secure Health Coverage

In response to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Washington state, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today announced it is extending the current special enrollment period for individuals who are uninsured.

As I noted a few days ago, lately 95% of what I'm analyzing and writing about is the ongoing horror of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since tracking and analyzing data is what I'm best known for...and since I'm mostly stuck sitting in front of the computer all day whether I like it or not these days anyway...I've started my own daily COVID-19 spreadsheet. I've added a big yellow banner at the top of the site which links to it.

Again, I'm not the one who compiled the data itself--many other teams with far better resources than I have are doing that--but I'm pulling their work together and adding some additional context, such as per capita info by state/territory.

Back on March 14th, the Maryland Health Connection announced a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period for uninsured residents, letting them #GetCovered through April 15th.

Maryland was already offering a SEP for uninsured residents to #GetCovered when they file their state taxes by checking off a box, but that was made pretty much moot when they launched the COVID SEP as well.

Anyway, today they announced that they're extending the COVID SEP out by another full 2 months:

SPECIAL ENROLLMENT FOR CORONAVIRUS STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED TO JUNE 15

The MA Health Connector has extended their COVID-19 SEP out by another month:

Administrative Information Bulletin 03-20
Amendment to Administrative Bulletin 02-20 Guidance Regarding Special Enrollment Periods Due to the Emergence of the Novel Coronavirus SARS-Cov-2, Which Causes the Disease COVID-19
March 30, 2020

Me, 3/31/20, 1:14pm:

Well, today I received a likely answer which is depressing but not surprising at all: According to my sources, there isn't any technical, logistical, personnel or support reasons why HealthCare.Gov couldn't launch a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period at any time. The only logical conclusion is that the White House has decided not to allow one for political reasons.

...The more people who come to rely on the Affordable Care Act--especially the ACA exchange operated by the Trump Administration itself--the more difficult it's going to be to justify the Trump Administration continuing to support a lawsuit with the sole purpose of attempting to have the ACA struck down by the Supreme Court...which they're continuing to try and do even in the middle of a pandemic.

Susannah Luthi, Politico, 3/31/20, 5:19pm:

Trump rejects Obamacare special enrollment period amid pandemic

Three weeks ago I reported that there were growing calls from many quarters for CMS Administrator Seema Verma and HHS Secretary Alex Azar to open up a federal Special Enrollment Period at HealthCare.Gov tied specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the next week or so, more and more of the 13 state-based ACA exchanges announced just such a COVID-19 SEP; eventually 12 out of 13 state-based exchanges did so (Idaho is the odd man out), and eventually even the health insurance industry (which is normally opposed to allowing exceptions to the official Open Enrollment Period) were onboard with a COVID SEP. Two weeks ago I was 95% certain that HC.gov would be announcing one at any moment.

And then...nothing. Nothing last week. Nothing yesterday. Nothing as of this writing.

via Sam Brodey of The Daily Beast:

The worsening coronavirus outbreak may be stretching the limits of the U.S. health care system and overwhelming state governments, but that isn’t deterring a group of 18 state attorneys general from plowing ahead with a lawsuit that could overturn the Affordable Care Act within a year—a move that could disrupt the health care system at a time of deep crisis. 

This fall, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is slated to argue in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 17 Republican attorneys general—and against 21 Democratic attorneys general—that Obamacare is unconstitutional and must be struck down immediately.

Nearly seven years ago I made my mark in the world by becoming known as the Obamacare Enrollment Guy here at ACASignups.net.

I’m still posting updates, of course, but lately, about 95% of what I’m writing about and analyzing, like everyone else in the country, is related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As I noted back on March 11th, this time around I’m not the one doing the hard work of actually gathering the data itself. Several other outlets/organizations have taken up the grim task of keeping a running tally of how many people have tested positive for coronavirus, how many are hospitalized, how many have died and how many have recovered.

The following memo has been floating around Twitter since last night. I was concerned that it might be a hoax, but this response Tweet from the official Henry Ford Health System account can only be interpreted as confirming that it's very real...just not public as of yet. It appears to be a legitimate internal policy memo being prepared in the event of a worst-case scenario:

With a pandemic, we must be prepared for worst case. With collective wisdom from our industry, we crafted a policy to provide guidance for making difficult patient care decisions. We hope never to have to apply them. We will always utilize every resource to care for our patients.

— Henry Ford News (@HenryFordNews) March 27, 2020

@charles_gaba retweet this, your national audience needs to see this

Late last night, the U.S. Senate finally voted to approve a massive $2 TRILLION bailout/recovery bill in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. After a lot of haggling and drama, the final bill ended up passing unanimously, 96 - 0 (four Republican Senators weren't able to vote at all...due to being in self-isolation because of Coronavirus). It's expected to be quickly passed by unanimous consent in the House today and will presumably be signed by Donald Trump before nightfall.

And like that, the largest emergency economic influx bill in history is done.

There's a lot of explainers and thinkpieces being written about the bill as a whole...which elements are good, which are bad, which are flat-out offensive (especially the ~$500 billion in corporate giveaways, which still ended up in the final bill although they supposedly have some sort of oversight over which companies receive them and under what conditions), but my focus is of course on the healthcare aspects, and especially what it means for enrollment in ACA exchange plans and Medicaid via ACA expansion.

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