Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that to continue its efforts to increase access to enrollment assistance for consumers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make $80 million available in grants to Navigators in Federal Marketplaces for the 2022 plan year. The funding, which will be used for outreach and education efforts, is the largest allocation CMS has made available for Navigator grants to date and represents an eight fold increase in funding from the previous year. CMS invested $10 million annually in the Navigator program beginning with funding awarded in 2018 for the 2019 plan year. CMS awarded $36.2 million in 2017 for the 2018 plan year, down from a high of $63 million awarded in 2016 for the 2017 plan year.
Another quick Connecticut update...I've received the following Special Enrollment Period (SEP) QHP selection numbers for the past three years, and they're pretty telling:
SEP Enrollment for the 2/15 – 4/15 Timeframe:
2019 - 1,817
2020 - 4,250
2021 - 5,890
That averages out to:
2020: 70/day (2020 was a leap year)
2020 isn't really a good comparison year, since COVID had already started ravaging the U.S. by mid-March and Connecticut also launched a COVID SEP from March 18th - April 17th last year as well. The spring of 2019, however, didn't have anything special going on, so that's a perfect pre-COVID comparison year: The 2021 COVID SEP racked up 3.26x as many new enrollees as you'd typically expect to during the off-season for the same time period.
A week or so ago, Access Health CT's COVID Special Enrollment Period ended...but they also announced that they're re-launching a new SEP starting on May 1st anyway. This amounts to them taking a 2-week pause to reprogram/retool their website to take advantage of the expanded ACA subsidies under the American Rescue Plan.
At the time, they were only allowing current exchange enrollees to switch plans mid-year via a cumbersome process of calling into the exchange directly. Today it sounds like that's been changed:
Final Deadline for 2021 Health Insurance is April 30
Last Chance for Idahoans to Receive Enhanced Subsidies
BOISE, Idaho – Your Health Idaho, the state health insurance exchange, announced the final day to enroll in 2021 health insurance, without a Qualifying Life Event, is April 30.
“This is the last chance for Idahoans to take advantage of the increased tax credits and enroll in 2021 coverage,” said Pat Kelly, Your Health Idaho Executive Director. “These savings can be significant for Idaho families who may have thought health insurance was out of reach prior to the American Rescue Plan Act.”
I've confirmed that unlike other state exchanges which have bumped out their deadlines repeatedly, Your Health Idaho explicitly does not intend on extending this deadline out again: April 30th is the final deadline.
After extending the special enrollment period deadline from March 31, exchange officials are urging Idahoans to apply for savings from a health insurance tax credit and make their final plan selection by 11:59 p.m. (MT) on Friday, April 30.
The Urban Institute has come out with a brand-new analysis which projects the impact of making the ACA subsidies which have been expanded & enhanced temporarily under the American Rescue Plan permanent. In other words, this is what they expect the real-world impact would be if Congress were to finally #KillTheCliff and #UpTheSubs permanently (as opposed to for just 2021 - 2022), as I and other healthcare activists been pushing for for years now.
Savings to the Rescue – Pennie is Now Open with Increased Savings
Pennie Customers Can Now See Savings When Shopping for Health Coverage
Uninsured Pennsylvanians will be able to receive significant savings in health coverage as a result of the American Rescue Plan
Harrisburg, PA – April 16 – As a result of the recent American Rescue Plan, also known as the COVID-19 relief package, provisions specific to the Affordable Care Act have impacted the way health insurance is available in Pennsylvania. These provisions include significant impacts, including an increase in savings, for Pennsylvanians seeking individual market coverage and those already enrolled through Pennie, as well as those who may lose their employment and rely on COBRA to maintain their employer coverage. Pennie is excited to announce that these savings are now available at pennie.com for those looking to enroll in quality, affordable coverage.
OK, this is a first...while most other states have been simply extending their existing COVID Special Enrollment Periods out through August to allow for the newly-expanded ACA subsidies, Connecticut is shutting theirs down at midnight tonight (April 15th)...but relaunching it again on May 1st:
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Savings Coming for Connecticut Residents
You Can Start to Take Action & See Savings After May 1, 2021
A new federal law was passed in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act, and it changed the way we calculate financial help for customers for this year and 2022. Many more customers will now qualify for financial help to make plans more affordable. Whether you’re a first-time shopper, or an existing customer, there could be big changes ahead for your household, and we want to make sure you know how to take advantage of the new financial help available.
A few weeks ago, I noted that one of the numerous ACA-related provisions of the American Rescue Plan was this one:
Put simply, subsidized enrollees last year received around $6.3 billion in "excess subsidies"...they underestimated their income for the year 2020 and would normally be required to pay them back, but the ARP is waiving that "clawback" of overpayments for one year only in response to the pandemic.
Again, these are subsidies which were already paid out in 2020. The money is already in the hands of the enrollees (well, technically it's in the hands of the insurance carriers, but that in turn freed up an equal amount in the bank accounts of the enrollees, anyway). This provision simply says that the enrollees don't have to pay it back.
Note:A few weeks ago, I ran a rough back-of-the-envelope extrapolation of partial data from the first 2 weeks of the ongoing COVID Special Enrollment Period and concluded that IF enrollment via the 36 HealthCare.Gov states was representative nationally, and IF the pace of the last 2 weeks of February held perfectly steady, it would mean around 666,000 new enrollees via HC.gov and 832,000 nationally by the end of March. Those were two pretty big caveats, of course, and as you'll see below, the reality wasn't quite as eyebrow-raising, though it's still pretty impressive.