Special Enrollment Periods

Me, June 16th, after several months of various state-based ACA exchanges bumping out their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period deadlines by a month, then another month, then another month:

I admit that this is starting to get a bit silly. At a certain point I'm guessing at least one of the state exchanges will just say "screw it" and open 2020 enrollment up for the full year.

The point of a deadline is a) to prevent people from trying to game the system by deliberately waiting until they're sick/injured before enrolling in coverage (thus driving up premiums for everyone else) and b) to goad people into actually taking action (deadlines do have a clear positive impact on enrollment). With the COVID-19 pandemic having thrown the entire healthcare system into disarray, neither of those seem to be much of a factor this year.

Maryland Connect, August 7th:

The big story with COVID-19 the past few weeks has been, of course, the out-of-control increase in new cases (if not actual deaths...yet) from the virus in red states like Texas, Florida and especially Arizona which were relatively unscathed throughout the spring while the pandemic was raging across Northeastern blue states like New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, as well as Michigan and California.

While most of the states being hit with the summer wave are historically Republican strongholds (the states being hit hardest in June/July also include Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, etc.), there's one important exception to this: California, which was hit early but which clamped down fairly quickly, has re-emerged as a major hot spot. So what gives?

Hardly surprising at this point, but still important to note:

Health Connector extends enrollment an additional month to July 23rd for uninsured individuals

On June 22, 2020, the Health Connector announced in an Administrative Bulletin an extension to the special enrollment period in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency through July 23, 2020 to assist uninsured Massachusetts residents seeking health coverage. (The extended enrollment period was previously set to end June 23.)

If you need to apply for coverage, you can start by creating an application.

If you apply coverage under this special enrollment, the deadlines to complete enrollment are as follows:

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.

Back in April, I noted that the DC Health Link ACA exchange had announced what appeared to be a special enrollment period specifically intended for employees of small businesses via the ACA's SHOP program, through September 15th, 2020:

DC Health Link Expands Opportunities to Get Covered During Public Health Emergency

Monday, April 6, 2020

Responding to COVID-19 pandemic, DC Health Link permits uninsured employees of DC small businesses that offer health insurance through DC Health Link to get covered now

On March 20th, the Vermont Health Connect ACA exchange joined other state-based exchanges in launching a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period.

On April 15th, just ahead of the original SEP deadline, they bumped it out by a month:

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Vermont Health Connect has opened a Special Enrollment Period until May 15, 2020. During this time, any uninsured Vermonter can sign up for a Qualified Health Plan through Vermont Health Connect. Qualified families can also get financial help paying for coverage.. Please call us at 1-855-899-9600 to learn more.

Then, with the May deadline approaching, I took a look and sure enough, they've bumped it out another month:

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.

Oof! I saw this several weeks ago but somehow forgot to actually post about it until now; it's important to note that the May 25th deadline referred to below was just extended until June 23rd:

Massachusetts Health Connector continues extended enrollment as nearly 45,000 people enroll in new plans, update current coverage

April 28, 2020 – The Massachusetts Health Connector continues to help people who need health insurance after losing coverage or income due to the coronavirus, with a May 23 deadline ahead for June 1 coverage.

Not terribly surprising; via the Massachusetts Health Connector:

On May 21, 2020, the Health Connector announced in an Administrative Bulletin an extension to the extended enrollment period in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency through June 23, 2020 to assist uninsured Massachusetts residents seeking health coverage. (The extended enrollment period was previously set to end May 25.)

If you need to apply for coverage, you can start by creating an application 

If you apply coverage under this special enrollment, the deadlines to complete enrollment are as follows:

Coverage Start DateEnrollment Deadline

  • Coverage Start Date: June 1st: Enrollment Deadline: May 23rd
  • Coverage Start Date: July 1st: Enrollment Deadline: June 23rd

Please note that if you are eligible to enroll due to normal special enrollment period rules, you can select the one that applies when you complete your application.

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.

Today they issued another update:

Covered California Sees More Than 123,000 Consumers Sign Up for Coverage During the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 20th, the Vermont Health Connect ACA exchange joined other state-based exchanges in launching a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period.

On April 15th, just ahead of the original SEP deadline, they bumped it out by a month:

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Vermont Health Connect has opened a Special Enrollment Period until May 15, 2020. During this time, any uninsured Vermonter can sign up for a Qualified Health Plan through Vermont Health Connect. Qualified families can also get financial help paying for coverage.. Please call us at 1-855-899-9600 to learn more.

Well, today, with the revised deadline approaching, I took a look and sure enough, they've bumped it out another month:

via Connect for Health Colorado:

More than 14,000 Coloradans gain health coverage during emergency Special Enrollment Period; Marketplace reports higher enrollments and lower costs in 2020

DENVER — A total of 14,263 Coloradans gained health insurance coverage during Connect for Health Colorado’s emergency Special Enrollment Period, which ran from March 20 to April 30. The Marketplace opened the Special Enrollment Period in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), to ensure as many Coloradans as possible have access to health care.

“We’ve seen a tremendous response to the emergency Special Enrollment Period and need for affordable health coverage,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “As always, we are here to help Coloradans get covered and stay covered as they navigate life changes this year.”

via the Massachusetts Health Connector:

Massachusetts Health Connector continues extended enrollment as nearly 45,000 people enroll in new plans, update current coverage

April 28, 2020 – The Massachusetts Health Connector continues to help people who need health insurance after losing coverage or income due to the coronavirus, with a May 23 deadline ahead for June 1 coverage.

In order to help residents who lose their employer-sponsored coverage during the economic crisis created by the coronavirus, the Health Connector has created an extended enrollment period through May 25, so that anyone who needs health insurance can come to the exchange and get into coverage. Additionally, current Health Connector members are encouraged to update their income information if they lost their jobs or working hours have changed, to ensure they are in the plan that provides appropriate financial help paying for their coverage.

via the Washington Healthplan Finder:

Washington Healthplanfinder Urges Uninsured to Act Fast to Meet Friday, May 8 Deadline

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today is urging individuals who did not secure health insurance for 2020 to sign up for coverage by 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 8, the deadline of the limited-time special enrollment period (SEP) through Washington Healthplanfinder for coverage beginning May 1, 2020.

“Now is the time to sign up for health coverage if you are currently uninsured,” said Exchange Chief Executive Officer Pam MacEwan, “There are many resources available to help individuals understand their options and secure health coverage before the special enrollment period ends.”

via Covered California:

Covered California for Small Business Works to Help Struggling Businesses Keep Employees Covered During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Covered California for Small Business will allow small businesses an additional 30-day grace period to make their premium payments for the months of April and May.
  • Employers interested in the program will be able to defer up to 75 percent of their premium payments for April and May in an effort to keep thousands of small business employees insured during the current health care crisis.
  • A survey found that more than three out of every four Covered California for Small Business employers are either operating in a limited capacity or are temporarily closed.

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