HealthCare.Gov *officially* announces 2021 #ACA COVID Enrollment Period
2021 Special Enrollment Period for Marketplace Coverage Starts on HealthCare.gov Monday, February 15
- SEP allows consumers to enroll in affordable health coverage during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
Today, in accordance with the Executive Order signed by President Biden, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is announcing that the Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for the Health Insurance Marketplace® will officially be available to consumers in the 36 states that use the HealthCare.gov platform on Monday, February 15, and will continue through Saturday, May 15. At least 13 States plus the District of Columbia, which operate their own Marketplace platforms, have decided to offer a similar opportunity.
The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has affected millions of people throughout the country, and many Americans remain uninsured or underinsured and need access to affordable health coverage. The SEP will allow individuals and families to enroll in the health coverage they need. Consumers who are uninsured can take this opportunity to look for coverage and find out if they qualify for financial assistance to help pay for health insurance. Currently 9 out of 10 consumers enrolled in coverage through HealthCare.gov receive financial help and 75% of consumers can purchase a plan for $50 or less per month after financial assistance. In addition, all of the plans at HealthCare.gov cover essential health benefits, such as primary care visits, and cover many preventive care services with no out-of-pocket costs to the consumer.
It's important to clarify that despite the "consumers who are uninsured" wording, CMS's earlier press release clarified that yes, current ACA exchange enrollees in the 36 states hosted via HealthCare.Gov can indeed switch plans during the COVID Enrollment Period as well:
Current enrollees will be able to change to any available plan in their area without restriction to the same level of coverage as their current plan. In order to use this SEP, current enrollees will need to step through their application and make any changes if needed to their current information and submit their application in order to receive an updated eligibility result that provides the SEP before continuing on to enrollment. This SEP opportunity will not involve any new application questions, or require consumers or enrollment partners to provide any new information not otherwise required to determine eligibility and enroll in coverage. In addition, consumers won’t need to provide any documentation of a qualifying event (e.g., loss of a job or birth of a child), which is typically required for SEP eligibility.
Getting back to today's press release:
"President Biden was clear: we need to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and give more Americans access to health care, especially during this pandemic, which has further demonstrated the importance of having the right coverage. This Special Enrollment Period will give Americans who need affordable, quality health insurance an opportunity to get covered, and we encourage folks to head to HealthCare.govstarting on Monday to explore their options," said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran.
Beginning today, CMS is launching outreach efforts through stakeholders and partners to get ready and amplify education and awareness across communities. A consumer-facing education campaign will launch on Monday, February 15, including broadcast, radio and digital advertising. The campaign will focus most on increasing awareness among the uninsured that there is an SEP available now and raise awareness among the uninsured about affordable options for coverage and the availability of assistance to pay for premiums for those that qualify. CMS will communicate with current enrollees to let them know they can also take advantage of this opportunity.
This SEP is one of the Biden Administration’s first steps in pursuing health equity across the country. Collaborating closely with community partners, CMS will focus its outreach and education efforts on reaching groups that historically have experienced lower access to health coverage and greater disparities in health outcomes. These efforts include placing advertisements in media used by targeted audiences as well as developing partnerships with media outlets that engage communities of color. CMS is working with several organizations, including those that focus on helping the uninsured and other vulnerable communities, to ensure consumers get timely and accurate information about the SEP.
CMS intends to release data on consumer activities during the SEP for each month as consumers apply and enroll in coverage. The first report is anticipated in early March, which will cover consumers who applied and enrolled through this SEP in February and have coverage starting March 1. CMS intends to release a report for each month, February, March, and April shortly after the month ends and then a final report after May 15 covering the full period.
Beginning Monday, February 15, consumers who want to access the SEP to enroll in coverage and see if they qualify for financial help to reduce the cost of monthly premiums, can visit HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov to view 2021 plans and prices and enroll in a plan that best meets their needs. Additionally, consumers can call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596, which provides assistance in over 150 languages. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Consumers can also find a local assister or agent/broker in their area.
CMS encourages new consumers and current enrollees to take this opportunity starting Monday, February 15, to review their options and decide on coverage that best meets their needs for health coverage.