OE8

There's a lot on everyone's plate at the moment. A global pandemic which has already killed over 230,000 Americans and infected 9 million more. The entire West Coast is on fire while the Gulf Coast is being hit with hurricanes. And there's some sort of election coming up on Tuesday, I hear.

Meanwhile, in just eleven days the Republican-controlled Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case brought by Republican plaintiffs (and sided with by a Republican Justice Department) over whether the Affordable Care Act should be struck down en masse because a Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate decided to change the individual mandate penalty amount from $695 to $0.

However, there's one other important thing happening with the ACA in just two days: The 2021 ACA Open Enrollment Period begins on Sunday, November 1st.

As I do every year, here's a list of important things to remember when selecting a health insurance policy. Some of these are the same every year and apply nationwide; others are specific to the 2021 enrollment period and/or to particular states.

1. DON'T MISS THE DEADLINE!

via the Nevada Health Link:

Nevada Health Link reminds Nevadans there are 45 days remaining to secure health insurance for 2021 coverage

Nevadans have until Dec. 31 to enroll in a Qualified Health Plan effective Jan. 1, 2021

Nevada Health Link, the online health insurance marketplace operated by the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange), reminds Nevadans that Open Enrollment for a comprehensive, Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant health plan for 2021 ends on Jan. 15, 2021. All plans offered through the Exchange cover the ten essential health benefits including pre-existing conditions and all COVID-19-related diagnosis and treatment. Consumers should know they must enroll in a plan by Dec. 31, 2020 to have health coverage effective Jan. 1, 2021. Anyone who enrolls between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 will have coverage effective Feb. 1, 2021.

Health Insurance Town Halls Offered to Michigan Consumers with Questions about Open Enrollment 

Thousands of Michiganders have lost health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) is offering virtual town hall events to help answer questions about open enrollment on the Health Insurance Marketplace, which runs until Dec. 15.  

These live online town hall meetings are part of a series of events that will help consumers learn and ask questions about signing up for a health plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace. To attend a virtual town hall event, click the event link at its start time. Instructions for attendees are available and explain how to join an event and ask questions. 

Event Information: 

The Massachusetts Health Connector (MA's ACA exchange) doesn't generally post official enrollment data reports via press releases, but I have a contact there who sends me their latest numbers from time to time during Open Enrollment:

Here's where we are at, currently:

  • January effectuations: 275,003
  • Feb. and March effectuations: 5
  • Plan Selections: 9,143
  • Total enrollments: 284,151

As a reminder, "effectuations" have paid the first month premium and are good to go. Plan selections still need payment to start.

Massachusetts is a bit unique among the ACA exchanges--they, along with Rhode Island, are the only ones which handle premium payments as well as policy enrollments. This means that they don't just track how many people select policies, they also know how many of those who enroll have actually paid their monthly premiums.

Way back in October 2013, I launched the ACA Signups project as a light, nerdy hobby thing which was only supposed to last around six months, through the end of the first ACA Open Enrollment Period (March 31, 2014). Instead...well, let's just say that it's more than seven years later and I'm still doing this.

The reality is that The Graph itself doesn't serve a whole lot of useful function anymore. The enrollment patterns were erratic the first couple of years but have since settled into a pretty predictable...if not downright boring pattern for both the federal and state exchanges. The main reason I keep doing it each year is mostly out of tradition these days; after all, without The Graph, there wouldn't be an ACA Signups and I wouldn't have become a healthcare policy wonk in the first place.

Hot off the presses, via the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid:

Week Three, November 15 - November 21, 2020

In Week Three of the 2021 Open Enrollment period, 758,421 people selected plans using the HealthCare.gov platform. As in past years, enrollment weeks are measured Sunday through Saturday. 

Every week during Open Enrollment, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will release enrollment snapshots for the HealthCare.gov platform, which is used by the Federally-facilitated Exchange and some State-based Exchanges. These snapshots provide point-in-time estimates of weekly plan selections, call center activity, and visits to HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov.

The final number of plan selections associated with enrollment activity during a reporting period may change due to plan modifications or cancellations. In addition, the weekly snapshot only reports new plan selections and active plan renewals and does not report the number of consumers who have paid premiums to effectuate their enrollment.

via Connect for Health Colorado:

Coloradans Are Getting Covered During the Pandemic

DENVER – Nearly 30,500 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado’s Marketplace between Nov. 1 and Nov. 20. Through the first three weeks of the Open Enrollment period, approximately 73 percent of applicants qualify for financial help to help pay their monthly premiums.

Unlike many of the state-based exchanges, the Colorado ACA exchange is not "front-loading" their autorenewals of existing enrollees. They address this further down the press release:

“Unfortunately, the pandemic is continuing to grow and affect our communities. That’s why it’s more important than ever that Coloradans have access to affordable and quality health coverage.” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “I urge Coloradans to connect with us online, over the phone, or by making a virtual appointment with a certified Broker or Assister. We are here to make your enrollment as easy as possible.”

Way back in October 2013, I launched the ACA Signups project as a light, nerdy hobby thing which was only supposed to last around six months, through the end of the first ACA Open Enrollment Period (March 31, 2014). Instead...well, let's just say that it's more than seven years later and I'm still doing this.

The reality is that The Graph itself doesn't serve a whole lot of useful function anymore. The enrollment patterns were erratic the first couple of years but have since settled into a pretty predictable...if not downright boring pattern for both the federal and state exchanges. The main reason I keep doing it each year is mostly out of tradition these days; after all, without The Graph, there wouldn't be an ACA Signups and I wouldn't have become a healthcare policy wonk in the first place.

Still, The Graph remains a fun way of visualizing ACA Open Enrollment trends. Again, the dotted lines show last year's enrollment patterns for HealthCare.Gov, the 13 state-based exchanges (SBE) and BHP enrollments in Minnesota & New York. This year the lines will shift slightly due to Pennsylvania and New Jersey splitting off onto their own state-based exchanges, but the final totals will likely be similar...or perhaps not!

Hot off the presses, via the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid:

Week Two, November 8-November 14, 2020

In Week Two of the 2021 Open Enrollment period, 803,741 people selected plans using the HealthCare.gov platform. As in past years, enrollment weeks are measured Sunday through Saturday. 

Every week during Open Enrollment, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will release enrollment snapshots for the HealthCare.gov platform, which is used by the Federally-facilitated Exchange and some State-based Exchanges. These snapshots provide point-in-time estimates of weekly plan selections, call center activity, and visits to HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov.

The final number of plan selections associated with enrollment activity during a reporting period may change due to plan modifications or cancellations. In addition, the weekly snapshot only reports new plan selections and active plan renewals and does not report the number of consumers who have paid premiums to effectuate their enrollment.

NATIONAL COALITION LAUNCHES “GET COVERED 2021” URGING AMERICA TO MASK UP AND GET INSURED – FOCUS ON COVID AND COVERAGE FOR 16 MILLION AMERICANS ELIGIBLE FOR FINANCIAL HELP NOW

  • “Get Covered” is a call to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID as well as a public statement that you want your family and friends to get health insurance.
  • COVID underscores why insurance matters - but not just because of the pandemic - coverage can help people stay healthy and provide a pathway to care for diseases like cancer, diabetes, and many others that impact people’s lives.
  • Get Covered 2021 will focus on getting the estimated 16 million uninsured people across America eligible for financial help – through their Affordable Care Act marketplace, or free coverage through Medicaid – insurance coverage now.
  • The Get Covered 2021 coalition announced that December 10th will be Get Covered America Day -- a day of action where everyone will be encouraged to keep wearing their mask and post a picture of themselves on social media, including a personal message about how friends, family and neighbors can get financial help for insurance now, sharing the website GetCovered2021.org and using the hashtag #GetCovered2021.

As I've noted several times before, two more states have split off from the federal ACA health insurance exchange (HealthCare.Gov) this year. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have joined twelve other states (and DC) in operating their own full ACA enrollment platform.

In the case of Pennsylvania, they decided to call theirs "Pennie" (Pennsylvania Insurance Exchange), and judging by their first enrollment report, it looks like it's off to a great start:

Open Enrollment Early Highlights

via MNsure, Minnesota's ACA exchange:

MNsure Open Enrollment Runs Through December 22

November 18, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Since the start of MNsure's open enrollment period on November 1, nearly 102,000 Minnesotans have signed up for 2021 private health insurance coverage – approximately 10% more than this time last year.

MNsure's open enrollment period runs until December 22, 2020, a week longer than the federal open enrollment period.

“Every Minnesotan should have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you've got comprehensive health coverage, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said MNsure CEO Nate Clark. “You can sign up through MNsure.org through December 22 for coverage beginning January 1, 2021. Don’t delay. Contact a MNsure-certified assister who can walk you through the enrollment process.”

via the Washington Health Benefit Exchange:

Health Insurance Coverage is More Important Than Ever – In Person Help Still Available during New Statewide Restrictions

The 2021 open enrollment period is underway, and Washingtonians are now signing up for health plans, including in new Cascade Care health plans. After months of a global pandemic – needs have changed due to job loss, or working from home, or family income changes. Individuals seeking health coverage can now shop more options this year, along with financial assistance, by visiting Washington Healthplanfinder to sign up for health and dental coverage.

“With infection rates climbing and economic uncertainty across Washington state, now is the time to sign up for health coverage,” said Chief Executive Officer Pam MacEwan. “There are many resources available to help individuals understand their options.” 

If you visit several of the state-based ACA exchange websites right now, you might notice a pattern:

Connect for Health Colorado (blog entry):

Staying Focused

It’s still 2020, so it only seems appropriate that we all have a lot on our plates. Despite the Texas v. California court case causing some news as it went before the Supreme Court this week, we continue to stay focused on our current Open Enrollment Period.

It is of note this year that individuals making up to $51,040 per year or a household of four making up to $104,800 annually may be eligible for financial help to lower their monthly premiums, healthcare discounts, or both. Nearly three quarters of all Connect for Health Colorado enrollments are financially assisted.

And, since plans and prices change every year, you can point people to our Quick Cost and Plan Finder Tool to see their options.

The Washington ACA exchange has reported their initial numbers, and like Connecticut, the top figure is a bit misleading: 182,000 Washingtonians enrolled in the first four days!...except that, again, 99% of these are current exchange enrollees having their auto-renewals front-loaded:

Washington Healthplanfinder reminds Washingtonians that open enrollment has started, encouraging those seeking health coverage to visit WAhealthplanfinder.org to shop, choose, and save on health and dental coverage.

“Our focus remains on encouraging customers to review their options and sign up for coverage that meets their needs,” said Exchange Chief Executive Officer, Pam MacEwan. “The 2021 open enrollment period has begun, and residents should use this opportunity to access coverage that will last them all year.”

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