REMINDER: Massachusetts, Rhode Island & Washington State still have until January 23 for February coverage

Just a quick reminder: This Friday, January 15th, is the deadline for people to sign up for healthcare coverage that starts on February 1st in most states:

  • The deadline for February coverage is Friday, January 15th in 46 states & DC.
  • The deadline for February coverage is Saturday, January 23rd in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington State.
  • The FINAL deadline, for coverage starting in March in all states (& DC) is Sunday, January 31st.

Exceptions: Aside from the normal "off-season" Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for getting married, giving birth, etc., it's important to note that anyone who lost their coverage due to one of the dozen Co-Ops which shut down in December still has until March 1st to enroll (h/t to Amy Lotven for the reminder):

A CMS spokesperson confirms to Inside Health Policy that any person who has lost his or her minimal essential coverage (MEC) due to a plan ending will be eligible for the 60-day Special Enrollment Period even if it coincides with open enrollment, which means that consumers in the various consumer-operated and -oriented plans (co-ops) and others that terminate as of Dec. 31 will have until March 1 to enroll.

Twelve of the 23 co-ops have announced that they will shut down at the end of the year, and those plans served a total of more than 700,000 enrollees. It's unclear how many of those consumers would need to use the extra time since the co-op members have been repeatedly informed of the need to purchase new coverage. Several other plans have been terminated or will not be offered in certain markets this year, and those members will also have additional time.

CMS did not provide any numbers on how many consumers would be impacted this year. CMS did report earlier this year that of the 944,000 consumers who enrolled in coverage through an SEP from Feb. 23 through June 30, 2015, about 50 percent were due to loss of MEC.

UPDATE: The Colorado exchange has just issued a press release which is really just a more Colorado-specific version of the above:

DENVER – Connect for Health Colorado® announced today that thousands of Coloradans would have additional time to pick new health insurance coverage for 2016 through a Special Enrollment Period.

Individuals and families who are shopping for new health insurance coverage because their health insurance company is no longer offering health plans in their area – or because they had a policy last year that no longer meets the minimum legal requirements – will be permitted to enroll in new coverage through Feb. 29. This includes individuals and families who purchased their 2015 health insurance on or off Connect for Health Colorado’s site.

Hey, 2016 is a Leap Year!! I completely forgot about that...and it's possible that CMS forgot as well, since they give the SEP deadline as March 1st (it's technically 60 days from the date that the coverage expires, which was December 31st. In other years that would be 31 days in January + 28 days in February + March 1st).

“We have worked with the state Division of Insurance and our carrier partners to give Coloradans in these particular circumstances a little more time to enroll in a health plan,” said Kevin Patterson, CEO of Connect for Health Colorado®. “But I want to remind everyone who does not have health insurance provided through their employer to enroll now to provide financial security for their family and to avoid a penalty of$695 or more.”

Those who do not qualify for a Special Enrollment Period must enroll in a health plan by the end of Open Enrollment on Jan. 31, 2016. That is the last chance for most people to buy health insurance this year and avoid a tax penalty that is expected to average nearly $1,000 per household this year.

The Special Enrollment Period, through February 29 is largely offered to individuals who lost certain types of coverage:

  • Those whose 2015 coverage was with the Colorado HealthOP or Access Health Colorado.
  • Those who were Rocky Mountain Health Plans but are no longer in the company’s redrawn service area.
  • Subscribers of “Transition” plans, which do not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act.

Ah, yes: Transition plans. This refers to the HHS Dept's. response to President Obama's "If you like your plan you can keep it" brouhaha. As you may recall, millions of non-compliant plans were originally scheduled to be cancelled on 12/31/13, but after the backlash, President Obama announced that each state could, if they wished, allow their carriers to extend existing non-compliant policies by 1, 2 or even 3 full years. Some states stuck with the original cut-off date; most bumped it out the full 3-year period (which basically means the end of 2016); and a few states dropped theirs after one or two years. Colorado dropped theirs as of 12/31/15, thus pushing several tens of thousands of enrollees onto the exchange.

My guess is that the vast majority of these folks have already signed up anyway, but the rest of them have an extra month to get squared away.