This letter was sent to CMS Administrator Seema Verma over the weekend by Peter Lee, Executive Director of Covered California:

Dear Administrator Verma:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge across the nation, endangering Americans and filling our hospitals from coast to coast. In the middle of this rising crisis, nearly 80 percent of the health insurance marketplaces, including all of those supported by the federally facilitated exchange (FFE) and a small number of state-based exchanges, are set to close their open-enrollment periods on December 15th.

We are writing to recommend that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) extend the open-enrollment period through January 31st or, at a minimum through December 30th, to allow Americans more time to sign up for health care coverage during this pandemic.

via Covered California:

As COVID-19 Pandemic Surges Across the State, Covered California Takes the Unprecedented Step of Giving Consumers Until Dec. 30 to Sign up Up for Coverage that That Begins on Jan. 1

  • Physicians and health centers across the state announce they are reaching out personally to all their patients to encourage them to stay safe from COVID and get insurance coverage if they are eligible — many will receive Covered California’s masks to get the message out that now is the time to get covered and stay covered.
  • California’s leading provider organizations — including the California Hospital Association, California Medical Association, California Academy of Family Physicians, the California Primary Care Association and America’s Medical Groups — are making sure the trusted voice of physicians and other health care heroes are speaking to millions of Californians with the message of remaining vigilant until the vaccine arrives.
  • According to a survey conducted by Covered California, the pandemic continues to touch most Californians, finding that 52 percent of Californians say the pandemic has affected their lives significantly, more than 40 percent personally know someone who has tested positive for the virus, and more than one in four people knows someone who has died from COVID-19.

    The timing of this press release is a little odd; it came out on November 9th, even though the 2021 ACA Open Enrollment Period actually launched on November 1st. In fact, in California specifically, they've been allowing existing enrollees to actively renew/re-enroll for 2021 since October 1st!

    Given the insanity of this year's Presidential election on November 3rd, along with the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, I can hardly blame CoveredCA for the delay, however; after all, this is the first Open Enrollment update I've posted since it kicked off on Nov. 1st as well...

    Anyway, via the Covered California newsroom:

    Covered California Officially Launches Open Enrollment with Millions of Masks to Encourage Californians to “Get Covered/Stay Covered” and a New Ad Campaign

    A week or so ago I noted that California's ACA exchange, CoveredCA, issued a press release which included several important items:

    • First, CA's Small Group Market premiums are increasing by just 1.5% in 2021 (the lowest average increase since the ACA passed)
    • Second, CA's Individual Market premiums are increasing by just 0.6% on average in 2021 (identical to the preliminary rate requests)
    • Third, that Open Enrollment technically already started back on October 1st...sort of.

    The official launch of Open Enrollment in every state isn't until November 1st, but for the past couple of years California has allowed current enrollees already in their system to actively renew/re-enroll for the upcoming year starting on October 15th. This year, it turns out they quietly moved that date back even earlier--current enrollees have been able to re-enroll starting as early as October 1st! I don't recall them ever making a big public announcement about this; I sort of stumbled upon it by accident.

    Back in early August, Covered California issued an extensive analysis of their upcoming 2021 individual market offerings, including the preliminary weighted average premium rate changes of just a 0.6% increase. Officially, this was just the average of the preliminary requests; the approved rates were presumably forthcoming at a later date.

    Well, the 2021 Open Enrollment Period has technically already started in California...while new enrollees still have to wait until November 1st, current CoveredCA enrollees have apparently been able to re-enroll for 2021 since October 1st! (In previous years, CoveredCA opened up the renewal period starting on Oct. 15th)

    There's a lot to unpack in this press release from Covered California:

    Covered California Hits Record Enrollment, Providing Important Lessons for the Nation on Meeting Americans’ Health Care Needs During the Pandemic and Major Economic Downturn

    • Covered California’s investments in marketing and outreach, along with consumer-first polices, helped it reach a record enrollment of 1.53 million people.
    • The record enrollment was bolstered by 289,000 people who signed up for coverage during the COVID-19 special-enrollment period, including 21 percent who were previously uninsured and likely ineligible to enroll under federal rules.

    That's roughly 61,000 Californians who were able to enroll in ACA exchange policies specifically due to CA having an open SEP (that is, no requirement of coverage loss/etc. to do so).

    this just in via Covered California:

    Covered California Opens New Paths to Coverage for Wildfire Victims and Those Who Lose Their Job or Income During the Pandemic and Recession

    • Covered California establishes a new special-enrollment period to benefit victims of the 500+ wildfires raging across the state.
    • In addition, Covered California announced new paths to coverage that will run through the end of 2020, for Californians who have lost employment or income due to the pandemic and resulting recession.
    • The moves come during ongoing uncertainty in the lives of Californians caused by the wildfires and the continuing fight against COVID-19.
    • More than 271,000 people have signed up for coverage through Covered California since the exchange’s initial announcement of a special-enrollment period in response to the pandemic.
    • La versión en español de este Comunicado puede ser descargada en este enlace.

    Just out from Covered California:

    California’s Efforts to Build on the Affordable Care Act Lead to a Record-Low Rate Change for the Second Consecutive Year

    • The preliminary rate change for California’s individual market will be 0.6 percent in 2021, which marks a record low for the second consecutive year and follows California’s reforms to build on and strengthen the Affordable Care Act.
    • Covered California’s increased enrollment, driven by state policies and significant investments in marketing and outreach, has resulted in California having one of the healthiest individual market consumer pools and lower costs for consumers.
    • The impact of COVID-19 on health plans’ costs has been less than anticipated as many people deferred or avoided health care services in 2020, and while those costs are rebounding, it now appears the pandemic will have little effect on the total costs of care in California’s individual market for 2020 and 2021.
    • All 11 health insurance companies will return to the market for 2021, and two carriers will expand their coverage areas, giving virtually all Californians a choice of two carriers and 88 percent the ability to choose from three carriers or more.