2020 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

OE7

Starting today, November 1st, the Seventh Annual ACA Open Enrollment Period is upon us! 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 2020 enrollment period and/or to particular states.

1. DON'T MISS THE DEADLINE!

California actually launched Open Enrollment for 2020 on October 15th, but for the other 49 states (+DC) it starts on November 1st. The deadline for Open Enrollment is December 15th in most states for coverage starting January 1st, 2020, but eight states which operate their own ACA exchanges have extended deadlines:

via HealthSource RI:

The clock is ticking on picking the best health insurance plan for 2020. High quality and affordable health coverage is available through HealthSource RI, and Rhode Islanders have until December 23rd to purchase coverage that starts on January 1st.
 
Getting health insurance is even more important this year because coverage is now required in the state of Rhode Island. As of January 1st, residents who don’t have health insurance will pay a tax penalty when filing for the prior year.

AGAIN: The federal shared responsibility requirement (aka the individual mandate penalty) may have been zeroed out by Congressional Republicans, but in addition to the District of Columbia, four states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Rhode Island) have reinstated it at the state level.

A few weeks ago, I did a write-up about a concerning development at HealthCare.Gov: The growing push under the Trump Administration to not only partner with 3rd-party web brokers (which has been done since the first days of the ACA under the Obama Administration), but to actively promote those third-party brokers over HealthCare.Gov itself.

In and of itself, this wouldn't be too problematic as long as people are still ultimately enrolling in fully ACA-compliant policies and receiving ACA subsidies if they're eligible for them. Hell, one of these 3rd-party authorized web brokers even has a banner ad at the top of my website...which I only allow because this particular one only sells on-exchange ACA-compliant policies.

This just in from MNsure, the Minnesota ACA exchange:

All private health plans offered on the MNsure marketplace limit the out-of-pocket cost to enrollees for insulin prescriptions in 2020. Each of MNsure's four insurers are offering either low-cost or free insulin benefits, meaning consumers purchasing plans through MNsure will pay no more than 25 dollars per month for insulin.

"The rising cost of insulin has put a huge financial burden on many families across Minnesota," said Nate Clark, MNsure CEO. "It’s so important to have access to insulin at an affordable price. We encourage all those looking for prescription insulin coverage to check out the plan options at MNsure.org."

Just another quick update from AccessHealthCT:

This year, their press release page states the following:

Stats as of December 6, 2019:

Qualified Health Plans (QHP):

  • Net Total QHP Enrollment: 99,322
  • 2020 OE Acquisition Summary: 10,281

Overall Volume

  • Unique Website Visitors: 128,886
  • Calls Handled: 119,089

Medicaid: Completed applications/redeterminations processed through the integrated eligibility system: 29,692

I'm assuming this means that they've joined several other state exchanges and are front-loading their auto-renewals of everyone currently enrolled. I'm further assuming that of those 99,322 people, 10,281 of them are new enrollees. If so, that means they'll have to enroll just 11,744 more people over the next four weeks to beat last year's 111,066 total.

Connect for Health Colorado reported 24,000 QHP selections as of 11/15. Now they're out with another update:

Connect for Health Colorado® Urges Residents to Shop by December 15 for January Coverage

Nearly 42,000 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado’s Marketplace between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. Approximately 70 percent of applicants qualify for financial help in the first month of the Open Enrollment period. Residents must sign up for a plan by Dec. 15, 2019 to have coverage in place by Jan. 1, 2020, however, Open Enrollment runs through Jan. 15, 2020. 

Coloradans can sign up for a Marketplace plan online, over the phone or in person with a certified enrollment expert. Connect for Health Colorado has 23 enrollment centers to provide residents with walk-in help at different times throughout the week. Residents can also schedule an appointment. 

I have a different California-specific post coming later this afternoon, but I stumbled across a mildly interesting bit of data and figured this would be a good time to share it while I wait to be able to post that one.

As you may recall, while the ACA required that most individual market major medical healthcare policies sold have to comply with full ACA regulations, there were some exceptions to this. The biggest exception made was for major medical plans which had been continuously enrolled in since before the ACA was signed into law in March 2010.

These plans were grandfathered in, and so are appropriately called "Grandfathered Plans", and applied to perhaps 5 million people or so back in 2014, when ACA-compliance became mandatory for newly-sold policies.

This Just In via the Washington HealthPlanFinder:

Washington Healthplanfinder Urges Customers to Act Fast for Jan. 1 Coverage

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today is warning customers without 2020 coverage that Sunday, Dec. 15 at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline to sign up for health and dental plans through Washington Healthplanfinder that begin on Jan. 1.

Since the open enrollment period began, more than 187,000 Washingtonians have already selected 2020 Qualified Health Plans (QHP) using Washington Healthplanfinder, including around 15,000 residents who signed up for health coverage over the past week. With traffic to wahealthplanfinder.org expected to continue rising, customers needing 2020 coverage are directed to submit an application and lock in their plan selection immediately to avoid any potential delays.

 

Me, two day ago:

I'm just putting this out there today because I know there's gonna be a bunch of eye-rolling stories completely misunderstanding the data later on this week.

Last Wednesday, the Week 4 HealthCare.Gov Snapshot Enrollment Report came out and showed a "mysterious" 41% increase in ACA exchange enrollments for the week vs. last year...jumping from 500,437 QHP selections to 703,556 QHP selections for the corresponding week this year.

This Wednesday, the Week 5 snapshot report will come out and will almost certainly show a "mysterious" large drop in ACA exchange enrollments vs. last year...from 772,250 down to perhaps 500,000 or so.

via Nevada Health Link:

Less Than Two Weeks Remain To Enroll In A Qualified Health Plan Through Nevada Health Link

  • Free enrollment assistance available; Weekend call center hours extended for duration of Open Enrollment

Las Vegas, NV - The clock is ticking with only 13 days left to enroll before the December 15th midnight deadline approaches. Nevadans can find coverage in a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) and Qualified Dental Plan (QDP) through Nevada Health Link, the online insurance marketplace operated by the state agency, Silver State Health Insurance Exchange – and the only place consumers can get financial assistance (subsidies) to help offset the cost of insurance.

To ensure consumers have as much access to help with the enrollment process, Nevada Health Link's call center has extended its weekend hours through the end of Open Enrollment on December 15. The call center will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST on Saturday, Dec. 7, Sunday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 14 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. PST on Sunday, Dec. 15.

via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

Maryland Health Connection will hold nearly 20 “Last Chance” events throughout the state during the final week of open enrollment Dec. 7-15 to provide free help enrolling in health coverage. Marylanders can enroll in health and dental coverage until Dec. 15 through Maryland Health Connection, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

At the free “Last Chance” events, certified health insurance navigators will help Marylanders sign up for a health plan and understand their coverage options and financial help available. Assistance also is available in Spanish.

Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov or the Enroll MHC mobile app to browse plans, compare coverage and costs, and enroll.

The fall open enrollment is for private health and dental plans only. People who have coverage through Medicaid will receive a notice when it’s time to renew; enrollment for Medicaid is all year for eligible Marylanders.

Assistors Available On-Site at Winter Markets Across the State

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 3, 2019) – NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan Marketplace, today announced its continued partnership with NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets in an effort to educate shoppers at farmers markets throughout New York State about low-cost, high-quality health coverage during the Open Enrollment Period.

Consumers must enroll by December 15, 2019 for coverage beginning January 1, 2020. Certified Enrollment Assistors will be available leading up to the December 15 deadline at select markets to answer any questions about enrolling in a health plan through the Marketplace and to set up enrollment appointments. In addition, NY State of Health educational materials will be available at select farmers’ markets across the state. This is the fourth year of the NY State of Health-NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets partnership.

 

This isn't the biggest development in the world, but exactly a year ago today I made a big fuss about how New Jersey (and DC) had reinstated their own health insurance individual mandate penalties after the federal version was zeroed out by Congressional Republicans...but didn't seem to be going through much effort to let people know about the penalty.

While Massachusetts had launched a massive multi-media awareness/education blitz statewide to make sure people knew that they had dusted off their pre-ACA coverage mandate requirement, New Jersey and DC didn't appear to be doing much, if anything, to let people know that they'd face a stiff tax penalty if they didn't either #GetCovered or qualify for an exemption.

As I noted at the time, just like the Doomsday Device in Dr. Strangelove, it completely defeats the whole point of having a penalty if no one knows it exists.

A couple of weeks ago, BeWell NM, the name of the New Mexico ACA health exchange, held their latest board meeting. There's two key things to keep in mind about New Mexico:

First, they've been officially operating as a state-based exchange while "piggybacking" off of HealthCare.Gov since the very first Open Enrollment Period in 2013-2014...but they announced over a year ago that they're following Nevada's (and Idaho's) lead in splitting off onto their own full exchange, starting in 2021.

Second, as I reported back in August, there was an unusual development on the New Mexico ACA individual market:

CHRISTUS HEALTH PLAN LOSES QUALIFIED HEALTH PLAN STATUS

Over the past few years, more and more of the state-based exchanges have shifted from waiting until the end of Open Enrollment to officially report auto-renewals of existing enrollees...to going ahead and auto-renewing everyone up front, and then subtracting those current enrollees who actively cancel their renewals.

This has caused a bit of confusion, since the exchanges don't always make it clear who's being counted and when.

Case in point: Access Health CT, Connecticut's ACA exchange. Last year they reported 12,777 enrollees during the first two weeks of Open Enrollment...and also noted that there were another 85,000 existing enrollees who hadn't yet actively renewed their policies as of 11/18.

This year, their press release page states the following:

Qualified Health Plans (QHP):

  • Net Total QHP Enrollment: 98,131
  • 2020 OE Acquisition Summary: 7,344

Overall Volume

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