Special Enrollment Periods

Me, June 16th, after several months of various state-based ACA exchanges bumping out their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period deadlines by a month, then another month, then another month:

I admit that this is starting to get a bit silly. At a certain point I'm guessing at least one of the state exchanges will just say "screw it" and open 2020 enrollment up for the full year.

The point of a deadline is a) to prevent people from trying to game the system by deliberately waiting until they're sick/injured before enrolling in coverage (thus driving up premiums for everyone else) and b) to goad people into actually taking action (deadlines do have a clear positive impact on enrollment). With the COVID-19 pandemic having thrown the entire healthcare system into disarray, neither of those seem to be much of a factor this year.

Maryland Connect, August 7th:

The big story with COVID-19 the past few weeks has been, of course, the out-of-control increase in new cases (if not actual deaths...yet) from the virus in red states like Texas, Florida and especially Arizona which were relatively unscathed throughout the spring while the pandemic was raging across Northeastern blue states like New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, as well as Michigan and California.

While most of the states being hit with the summer wave are historically Republican strongholds (the states being hit hardest in June/July also include Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, etc.), there's one important exception to this: California, which was hit early but which clamped down fairly quickly, has re-emerged as a major hot spot. So what gives?

Hardly surprising at this point, but still important to note:

Health Connector extends enrollment an additional month to July 23rd for uninsured individuals

On June 22, 2020, the Health Connector announced in an Administrative Bulletin an extension to the special enrollment period in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency through July 23, 2020 to assist uninsured Massachusetts residents seeking health coverage. (The extended enrollment period was previously set to end June 23.)

If you need to apply for coverage, you can start by creating an application.

If you apply coverage under this special enrollment, the deadlines to complete enrollment are as follows:

On April 14th, Covered California reported that 58,000 residents had enrolled in ACA exchange coverage during their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, of which roughly 20,000 did so via standard SEPs (losing coverage, moving, getting married/divorced, etc), while an additional 38,000 took advantage of the COVID-specific SEP.

On April 28th, they announced that the number was up to 84,000 new ACA exchange enrollees, averaging around 2.5x as many as enrolled via standard Special Enrollment Periods during the same period a year ago.

On May 20th, they announced the total was up to 123,000 new ACA exchange enrollees via the COVID SEP, "nearly" 2.5x the rate of a year before.

Back in April, I noted that the DC Health Link ACA exchange had announced what appeared to be a special enrollment period specifically intended for employees of small businesses via the ACA's SHOP program, through September 15th, 2020:

DC Health Link Expands Opportunities to Get Covered During Public Health Emergency

Monday, April 6, 2020

Responding to COVID-19 pandemic, DC Health Link permits uninsured employees of DC small businesses that offer health insurance through DC Health Link to get covered now

On March 20th, the Vermont Health Connect ACA exchange joined other state-based exchanges in launching a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period.

On April 15th, just ahead of the original SEP deadline, they bumped it out by a month:

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Vermont Health Connect has opened a Special Enrollment Period until May 15, 2020. During this time, any uninsured Vermonter can sign up for a Qualified Health Plan through Vermont Health Connect. Qualified families can also get financial help paying for coverage.. Please call us at 1-855-899-9600 to learn more.

Then, with the May deadline approaching, I took a look and sure enough, they've bumped it out another month:

On April 14th, Covered California reported that 58,000 residents had enrolled in ACA exchange coverage during their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, of which roughly 20,000 did so via standard SEPs (losing coverage, moving, getting married/divorced, etc), while an additional 38,000 took advantage of the COVID-specific SEP.

On April 28th, they announced that the number was up to 84,000 new ACA exchange enrollees, averaging around 2.5x as many as enrolled via standard Special Enrollment Periods during the same period a year ago.

On May 20th, they announced the total was up to 123,000 new ACA exchange enrollees via the COVID SEP, "nearly" 2.5x the rate of a year before.

Oof! I saw this several weeks ago but somehow forgot to actually post about it until now; it's important to note that the May 25th deadline referred to below was just extended until June 23rd:

Massachusetts Health Connector continues extended enrollment as nearly 45,000 people enroll in new plans, update current coverage

April 28, 2020 – The Massachusetts Health Connector continues to help people who need health insurance after losing coverage or income due to the coronavirus, with a May 23 deadline ahead for June 1 coverage.

Not terribly surprising; via the Massachusetts Health Connector:

On May 21, 2020, the Health Connector announced in an Administrative Bulletin an extension to the extended enrollment period in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency through June 23, 2020 to assist uninsured Massachusetts residents seeking health coverage. (The extended enrollment period was previously set to end May 25.)

If you need to apply for coverage, you can start by creating an application 

If you apply coverage under this special enrollment, the deadlines to complete enrollment are as follows:

Coverage Start DateEnrollment Deadline

  • Coverage Start Date: June 1st: Enrollment Deadline: May 23rd
  • Coverage Start Date: July 1st: Enrollment Deadline: June 23rd

Please note that if you are eligible to enroll due to normal special enrollment period rules, you can select the one that applies when you complete your application.

On April 14th, Covered California reported that 58,000 residents had enrolled in ACA exchange coverage during their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, of which roughly 20,000 did so via standard SEPs (losing coverage, moving, getting married/divorced, etc), while an additional 38,000 took advantage of the COVID-specific SEP.

On April 28th, they announced that the number was up to 84,000 new ACA exchange enrollees, averaging around 2.5x as many as enrolled via standard Special Enrollment Periods during the same period a year ago.

Today they issued another update:

Covered California Sees More Than 123,000 Consumers Sign Up for Coverage During the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 20th, the Vermont Health Connect ACA exchange joined other state-based exchanges in launching a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period.

On April 15th, just ahead of the original SEP deadline, they bumped it out by a month:

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Vermont Health Connect has opened a Special Enrollment Period until May 15, 2020. During this time, any uninsured Vermonter can sign up for a Qualified Health Plan through Vermont Health Connect. Qualified families can also get financial help paying for coverage.. Please call us at 1-855-899-9600 to learn more.

Well, today, with the revised deadline approaching, I took a look and sure enough, they've bumped it out another month:

via Connect for Health Colorado:

More than 14,000 Coloradans gain health coverage during emergency Special Enrollment Period; Marketplace reports higher enrollments and lower costs in 2020

DENVER — A total of 14,263 Coloradans gained health insurance coverage during Connect for Health Colorado’s emergency Special Enrollment Period, which ran from March 20 to April 30. The Marketplace opened the Special Enrollment Period in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), to ensure as many Coloradans as possible have access to health care.

“We’ve seen a tremendous response to the emergency Special Enrollment Period and need for affordable health coverage,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “As always, we are here to help Coloradans get covered and stay covered as they navigate life changes this year.”

via the Massachusetts Health Connector:

Massachusetts Health Connector continues extended enrollment as nearly 45,000 people enroll in new plans, update current coverage

April 28, 2020 – The Massachusetts Health Connector continues to help people who need health insurance after losing coverage or income due to the coronavirus, with a May 23 deadline ahead for June 1 coverage.

In order to help residents who lose their employer-sponsored coverage during the economic crisis created by the coronavirus, the Health Connector has created an extended enrollment period through May 25, so that anyone who needs health insurance can come to the exchange and get into coverage. Additionally, current Health Connector members are encouraged to update their income information if they lost their jobs or working hours have changed, to ensure they are in the plan that provides appropriate financial help paying for their coverage.

via the Washington Healthplan Finder:

Washington Healthplanfinder Urges Uninsured to Act Fast to Meet Friday, May 8 Deadline

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today is urging individuals who did not secure health insurance for 2020 to sign up for coverage by 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 8, the deadline of the limited-time special enrollment period (SEP) through Washington Healthplanfinder for coverage beginning May 1, 2020.

“Now is the time to sign up for health coverage if you are currently uninsured,” said Exchange Chief Executive Officer Pam MacEwan, “There are many resources available to help individuals understand their options and secure health coverage before the special enrollment period ends.”

via Covered California:

Covered California for Small Business Works to Help Struggling Businesses Keep Employees Covered During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Covered California for Small Business will allow small businesses an additional 30-day grace period to make their premium payments for the months of April and May.
  • Employers interested in the program will be able to defer up to 75 percent of their premium payments for April and May in an effort to keep thousands of small business employees insured during the current health care crisis.
  • A survey found that more than three out of every four Covered California for Small Business employers are either operating in a limited capacity or are temporarily closed.

Two weeks ago, Covered California reported that 58,000 residents had enrolled in ACA exchange coverage during their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, of which roughly 20,000 did so via standard SEPs (losing coverage, moving, getting married/divorced, etc), while an additional 38,000 took advantage of the COVID-specific SEP.

Today they issued a press release with updated numbers and more:

Covered California Continues to See Strong Consumer Interest in Quality Health Care Coverage During the COVID-19 Pandemic

via the WA Healthplanfinder ACA exchange:
Over 16,000 Signed up for Coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder as Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic Hits Washington Households
  • Over 16,000 customers selected a plan for qualified health coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder since March 10, when a special enrollment period was announced in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Additionally, Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) enrollments are increasing.
  • The special enrollment period allows anyone uninsured and eligible to enroll in health coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder to sign up by May 8, 2020.
  • Additional existing special enrollment periods allow people who have experienced a recent loss of income or loss of employer coverage to sign up.

    On April 14th, I noted that Idaho, which had previously refused to join the twelve other state-based ACA exchanges in launching an "open" COVID-19 specific Special Enrollment Period (i.e., open to any uninsured resident regardless of reason) announced that going forward, they were modifying their regular SEP rules somewhat:

    If You Need Health Insurance, Your Health Idaho is Here to Help

    ...In partnership with the Idaho Department of Insurance and Idaho insurance providers, and in alignment with Governor Little’s initiative to reduce regulations, Your Health Idaho is working to relax the requirements for eligible Idahoans to enroll in coverage.

    via MNsure, Minnesota's ACA exchange:

    More than 9,400 Minnesotans Enrolled in Private Health Insurance Coverage During MNsure's COVID-19 Emergency Special Enrollment Period

    ST. PAUL, Minn.—Last month, Governor Walz announced a 30-day emergency special enrollment period (SEP) for individuals who were uninsured in the wake of COVID-19. During that time, 9,482 Minnesotans enrolled in private health insurance plans through MNsure. The SEP ran from March 23 through April 21. Additionally, more than 13,700 applied for public health insurance programs during that time period.

    Every Minnesotan deserves access to the health care they need—especially during the unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Tim Walz. “I am happy that we were able to offer the special enrollment period so more than 23,000 uninsured Minnesotans were able to enroll in health coverage. Minnesotans without coverage should keep coming to MNsure to see if they are eligible for other special enrollments or publicly funded health care programs with year-round enrollment like Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare.”

    via Connect for Health Colorado:

    10,000 Coloradans Covered during Emergency Special Enrollment Period So Far; Marketplace Open to Those with Life Changes

    More than 10,000 Coloradans so far have signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado’s emergency Special Enrollment period, which ends Thursday, April 30, 2020. The Marketplace opened the Special Enrollment period on March 20 in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Uninsured residents have nine days left to enroll for coverage that begins on May 1. 

    “We created this enrollment opportunity to relieve some stress for thousands of families who are trying to figure out their health coverage needs during this time.” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “I encourage residents who are uninsured to sign up before the April 30 deadline.”  

    Updated numbers from Maryland Health Connect:

    MORE THAN 21,500 MARYLANDERS OBTAIN HEALTH COVERAGE THROUGH STATE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS

    • Special Enrollments for Coronavirus Emergency, Tax Filers Allow Uninsured Additional Opportunities to Enroll Through Maryland Health Connection

    BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange today announced that more than 21,500 residents have enrolled in coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace, Maryland Health Connection. Earlier this month, the deadlines for both special enrollment periods were extended to accommodate growing health concerns as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the new tax filing deadline.

    The coronavirus special enrollment period, which began a month ago and now runs through June 15, has resulted in more than 19,000 residents obtaining health coverage — 61 percent in Medicaid and the remainder in private insurance, with most of those qualifying for financial help to lower the cost of the plan.

    via press release from MNsure:

    Don’t Wait: MNsure's COVID-19 Emergency Special Enrollment Period for Uninsured Minnesotans ends Tuesday at Midnight

    Uninsured Minnesotans have until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, to enroll in coverage through MNsure’s COVID-19 Emergency Special Enrollment Period. Those who enroll through this SEP will have coverage that retroactively begins April 1. Minnesotans can shop and compare plans and see if they qualify for financial help to pay for their plan by using MNsure’s plan comparison tool.

    Access Health CT, Connecticut's ACA exchange, originally offered a short COVID-specific Special Enrollment Period through April 2nd. When the original deadline approached, they, like most of the other state-based ACA exchanges, bumped that deadline out...until April 17th, aka tomorrow (Friday).

    CT's COVID SEP has always been stricter than mos; they require Conecticut residents to call the exchange as opposed to simply enrolling online. Other state-based exchanges have either made their deadlines much later in the first place (California and DC placed their deadlines in June out of the gate) or they extended them a second time, like Rhode Island and Maryland. In Connecticut's case, however, it doesn't look like they plan on bumping it out a second time:

    New Special Enrollment Period For Uninsured Ends Friday, April 17

    On March 20th, the Vermont Health Connect ACA exchange joined other state-based exchanges in launching a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period.

    There was some confusion about the original deadline (they said "month long" which suggested April 20th, but a note on their website last week set it as April 17th, which is this Friday).

    However, today they've updated that note:

    Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Vermont Health Connect has opened a Special Enrollment Period until May 15, 2020. During this time, any uninsured Vermonter can sign up for a Qualified Health Plan through Vermont Health Connect. Qualified families can also get financial help paying for coverage.. Please call us at 1-855-899-9600 to learn more.

    Unlike Connecticut, Nevada and Washington State, it doesn't sound like you necessarily have to call the VT exchange to actually enroll, but I'd recommend doing so anyway since I'm not sure how they're working it logistically.

    This just in via Covered California:

    Covered California Enrolls Tens of Thousands as Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic Hits California Households

    • More than 58,000 people have signed up for coverage through Covered California since March 20, when a special-enrollment period was announced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Covered California has seen a tremendous surge in consumers visiting CoveredCA.com and the website’s Medi-Cal page.
    • The special-enrollment period allows anyone uninsured and eligible to enroll in health care coverage through Covered California to sign up through June 30.
    • Consumers can enroll in as little as 30 minutes, either through CoveredCA.com or over the phone with the help of one of Covered California’s thousands of Certified Insurance Agents or enrollers.
    • In addition, Medi-Cal enrollment is open year-round for consumers who qualify.

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced on Monday that 58,400 people had enrolled in health care coverage since the exchange announced a special- enrollment period in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pace of sign-ups has been nearly three times the level that Covered California saw during the same period in 2019.

    Back on March 23rd, I noted that while every other state-based ACA exchange has launched an official COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Period, there are two ACA exchanges which have refused to do so. One of them is the mothership, HealthCare.Gov, which is run by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) and which hosts a whopping 38 states. The other one is Your Health Idaho:

    I contacted the exchange last week to see what the deal was re. a COVID-19 SEP and they kicked the ball over to the state Insurance Dept:

    COVID-19 (coronavirus) is not currently considered grounds for a Special Enrollment Period in Idaho. Questions around the potential offering of an SEP would be best answered by the Idaho Department of Insurance. This really falls within their regulatory authority. YHI will follow their guidance and support whatever decision is made.

    I did indeed contact the Idaho DOI, but I didn't hear back from them until today. Here's what they had to say:

    via HealthSource RI:

    Health Coverage Special Enrollment Period (SEP) Extended through April 30, 2020

    •  Special Enrollment Period has been extended through April 30th, 2020

    EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (April 13, 2020) — HealthSource RI has extended the limited-time Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that was established following Governor Raimondo’s State of Emergency declaration in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This SEP provides an opportunity for uninsured Rhode Islanders to purchase coverage through April 30, 2020. Coverage will begin on the first of the month following the application.

    Rhode Islanders who wish to obtain coverage can do so by visiting HealthSourceRI.com and enrolling online, or by contacting the HealthSource RI call center Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm at 1-855-840-4774. When completing the online enrollment form, Rhode Islanders should select the “other” SEP event and indicate COVID-19 or coronavirus as the explanation. Once approved, customers will need to choose a plan and pay for their first month of coverage.

    via the Washington Healthplan Finder:

    Washington Health Benefit Exchange Reminds Individuals Impacted by COVID-19 of the Health Insurance Options available now through Washington Healthplanfinder

    • Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today is reminding uninsured individuals impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Washington that the special enrollment period is extended through May 8, 2020, for coverage beginning May 1, 2020.

    Washingtonians who may qualify for health and dental coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder using existing special enrollment periods include individuals who:

    via MNsure, this includes their ongoing ACA exchange Special Enrollment Period but also explains other options for Minnesotans as well:

    Health Insurance Options through MNsure during COVID-19

    April 7, 2020

    ST. PAUL, Minn.—MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, reminds Minnesotans who have recently lost a job, experienced a reduction in hours, or are otherwise uninsured to visit MNsure.org to get connected to health insurance. On MNsure.org, Minnesotans looking for health insurance coverage can compare plans and see if they qualify for financial help to cover the cost of insurance premiums or low-cost or no-cost health insurance either through Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare.

    Here’s what you need to know

    Uninsured? Sign up now.

    As I've reported before, the DC Health Link exchange is one of a dozen state-based ACA exchanges which is currently offering a COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Period during which uninsured residents can #GetCovered. The deadline is June 15th.

    A few days ago, however, they announced an interesting expansion on the COVID SEP...one specifically intended for employees of small businesses which offer ACA SHOP plans to their employees which these employees haven't enrolled in as of yet:

    DC Health Link Expands Opportunities to Get Covered During Public Health Emergency

    Monday, April 6, 2020

    Responding to COVID-19 pandemic, DC Health Link permits uninsured employees of DC small businesses that offer health insurance through DC Health Link to get covered now

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