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 Healthcare.gov 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.
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...
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.
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).
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.
Covered California approved a $440 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21 that includes a $30 million increase in marketing investments and $13 million for additional customer service upgrades to meet the needs of consumers.
The increased spending, which represents a 16 percent increase over last year’s budget, comes amid continued uncertainty in the lives and livelihoods of Californians as public health officials fight against the spread of COVID-19.
The budget also calls for greater investments in information technology to improve efficiency, as well as increased efforts to help inform state and national policy on health care-related issues.
More than 209,000 people have signed up for coverage through Covered California since the exchange announced a special-enrollment period, which runs through the end of July, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statement from Peter V. Lee on Protecting Individuals from Discrimination Based on Categories Like Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee released the following statement following the federal administration’s June 12 rule that eliminates preexisting federal rules protecting individuals from discrimination based on categories like gender identity and sexual orientation:
“Covered California continues to make quality health care coverage more accessible and affordable to Californians of all ages, religions, abilities, sexual orientation, gender identities, races, ethnicities and national origins. We’ve built upon the Affordable Care Act’s landmark market reforms to ensure that no one can be turned away from coverage, and that once enrolled they would have access to affordable, high-quality care.
Covered California is announcing a special-enrollment period through April 30 to address concerns that many Californians remain unaware of the new financial help or the new state penalty.
Hmmmm....the Special Enrollment Period is interesting. HealthCare.Gov and some state exchanges did something like this in spring 2015 (the first year people had to actually pay the mandate penalty) and managed to get around 210,000 more enrollees nationally. Of course, the penalty for 2014 was only $95 or 1% of income at the time...now it's up to $695/person or 2.5% of household income, so it's a bigger deal.
Covered California Sees Thousands of People Enroll Each Day as it Approaches Friday’s Final Day of Open Enrollment
More than 364,000 consumers have newly enrolled during the current open-enrollment period, which ends at midnight on Friday, Jan. 31
More than 33,000 people have enrolled since Monday, an average of more than 11,000 people per day.
California passed two new laws for 2020, one that requires Californians to have health insurance or face a penalty, while the other offers new financial help – for the first time – to eligible consumers purchasing coverage.
Open enrollment is the one time when people can sign up for health insurance in the individual market without needing a qualifying life event.