Massachusetts: @HealthConnector Announces Those Who Received Unemployment Earlier In 2021 Can Still Take Advantage Of The #ARP's $0-Premium #SecretPlatinum Benefit!

MA Health Connector

Last week I noted that MNsure, Minnesota's state-based ACA exchange, announced that while the general, open-ended 2021 Special Enrollment Period had ended back in mid-July, they're still letting any Minnesotan who received unemployment benefits at any point in 2021 the opportunity to enroll in ACA healthcare coverage & take advantage of the American Rescue Plan's Unemployment Benefit.

The key point is that Minnesotans can still do so even if they received UI benefits prior to the July 15th SEP deadline. This means that if you were on unemployment back in, say, January or February, and you still need healthcare coverage for the remainder of 2021, you can still visit MNsure.org and get coverage for the last 4 months of this year for $0 in premiums and with mostly nominal deductibles/co-pays (assuming you aren't eligible for employer-based coverage, Medicaid, etc. instead).

Thanks to the ACA's Cost Sharing Reduction provision, anyone who earns less than 150% FPL is also eligible for maximum CSR subsidies. This means that the deductible, co-pays and coinsurance costs for Silver plans, which normally can run into thousands of dollars, are also dramatically slashed to as little as a few hundred dollars.

Again: While they may be officially designated as "Silver" plans, in practice these amount to "Platinum" plans...for $0 per month.

Well, a few days ago Massachusetts (which ended their official 2021 SEP on July 23rd) announced the same policy:

Massachusetts Health Connector Offers Plans with No Premiums to Residents on Unemployment in 2021

August 19, 2021 –Massachusetts residents who have received unemployment compensation at any point in 2021 are eligible for a health insurance plan through the Massachusetts Health Connector with no premium payments through the end of the year, regardless of their income.

The availability of plans without premiums for people who’ve been on unemployment benefits at any point in 2021 is part of the federal American Rescue Plan, and makes available commercial health insurance plans that deliver quality benefits. Along with no premium payments, the plans for people who’ve been on unemployment have no deductible, and very affordable co-pays.

“The Health Connector is pleased to be able to offer zero-dollar premium, high-quality coverage to Massachusetts residents who have experienced lost employment and income this year due to COVID-19,” said Audrey Gasteier, the Chief of Strategy and Policy at the Massachusetts Health Connector. “Residents who do not have health insurance and who have been on unemployment at any point this year can have the peace of mind of being covered, and not have to worry about making monthly premium payments for the rest of the year.”

The plans are available to people who received unemployment for at least one week at any point in 2021even if they are no longer receiving checks right now. These plans are part of the Health Connector’s ConnectorCare program, which uses state and federal subsidies to make health insurance more affordable to low- and moderate-income residents.

Along with the no-premium plans for people who are or have been on unemployment, the American Rescue Plan also created new opportunities for more people to get more help paying for their health insurance. The Health Connector estimates about $600 million in help is available to Massachusetts residents, including Advance Premium Tax Credits that can help pay monthly premiums for older adults making $80,000 or more in most areas of the state.

Residents who have been on unemployment and need insurance can go to MAhealthconnector.org and apply for coverage at any time. They can indicate on their application that they are currently receiving unemployment income, or received it earlier in the year. People who complete the application and pick a plan by Aug. 23 can have coverage starting Sept. 1.

I'm actually pretty sure this isn't a change in their policy, since those eligible for ConnectorCare plans have always been able to enroll year-round regardless; this press release feels more like a clarification than anything, noting that if you received unemployment, your income is legally defined as qualfying you for ConnectorCare anyway.