SEPs

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:

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:

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:

Back in March & April, I wrote a lot about COVID-19 Special Enrollment Periods...and especially about the fact that the largest ACA exchange of all, HealthCare.Gov, kept refusing to do so in spite of massive pressure from governors, members of Congress and nearly every advocacy group under the sun, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even the health insurance industry itself...which is especially remarkable given that it was BCBSA & AHIP who insisted on cracking down on Special Enrollment Periods in the first place a few years earlier.

On March 31st, I posted the following:

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.

Back in April, in the midst of the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through much of the nation, there was a loud outcry for the various ACA health insurance exchanges, including the federal exchange at HealthCare.Gov which hosts enrollment for over 3 dozen states, to re-open enrollment to anyone who missed the official Open Enrollment Period which had ended several months earlier.

Eventually, twelve of the thirteen state-based exchanges did just that, launching COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods of varying time periods for any resident who would normally be eligible to enroll during Open Enrollment to do so. Many of those SBEs would go on to extend the deadlines of their SEPs by a month...or two months...or even more. As of this writing, in fact, California, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia are are still offering "open" COVID-19 SEPs.

Just a few days after the previous COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period expired, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered NY State of Health to reopen their SEP through September 15th:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Special Enrollment Period for uninsured New Yorkers will be extended for another 30 days, through September 15, 2020, as the State continues to provide supportive services during the COVID-19 public health crisis. New Yorkers can apply for coverage through NY State of Health, New York State's health insurance marketplace, or directly through insurers.

"While we've crushed the curve of the virus, we are still in challenging times for hard-working families throughout the state who need access to quality, affordable health care," Governor Cuomo said. "The state has maintained low infection rates and is moving in the right direction, but we know we're not out of the woods yet. By offering this special enrollment period, we're making sure New Yorkers who need affordable and at times live-saving health care coverage can get it."

via the Massachusetts Health Connector:

Are you turning 26 soon and still on your parent’s health insurance policy?  Did you know that you will need to take action or you may no longer have health insurance? Don’t worry, you have options!

Turning 26 triggers a special enrollment period that allows you to enroll in new health insurance coverage a within 60-days of your birthday.

Get coverage from your job

If you have a job that offers insurance, you can enroll in that coverage as turning 26—known as aging out—is considered a qualifying life event and will enable you to enroll in job-based coverage outside of your job’s open enrollment period.

Get covered through your school

If you are a college student, you may be able to enroll in a student health insurance plan through your school. Find out more

Apply for coverage through the Health Connector

Back on March 10th, the Washington HealthPlanFinder became the first state-based ACA exchange/marketplace to formally create an official COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, which was originally scheduled to have a deadline of April 8th.

Since that time, nearly every other state-based ACA exchange (all of them except for Idaho) has done likewise. Some of them required some sort of verbal or written attestation of thier eligibility status, while others didn't, but all of them were wide open to any uninsured resident who would normally be eligible to enroll during the official Open Enrollment Period.

The deadlines for the "open" COVID-19 SEP varied by state...but most of them ended up extending them out as that deadline approached. In some cases, they bumped it out again...and again...and yet again, as it became increasingly clear that the deadly pandemic isn't going away anytime soon.

via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

NEARLY 58,000 MARYLANDERS GAIN HEALTH COVERAGE DURING TWO SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS

BALTIMORE, MD – A total of nearly 58,000 Marylanders enrolled in health coverage during Maryland Health Connection’s two special enrollment periods that began in February and March and ended Wednesday, July 15.

The Maryland Health Insurance Easy Enrollment program launched Feb. 26 as the first of its kind in the nation. The Comptroller of Maryland asked state tax filers to check a box on their state tax return if they lacked health insurance and desired that information to be shared with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. Several states are in the process of looking at creating similar programs.

Since February:

  • More than 41,000 filers checked the box
  • More than 3,700 enrolled as of July 13

Final numbers are pending, because tax filers had until the July 15 tax filing deadline to check the box on their state tax form, and will have several weeks to enroll.

Hardly surprising...again.

via the New York State government website:

Special Enrollment for Uninsured New Yorkers Will Extend for Additional 30 days and Remain Open Through August 15, 2020

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Special Enrollment Period for uninsured New Yorkers will be extended for another 30 days, through August 15, 2020, as the State continues to provide supportive services during the COVID-19 public health crisis. New Yorkers can apply for coverage through NY State of Health, New York State's health insurance marketplace, or directly through insurers.

via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

TWO SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE END JULY 15

  • Nearl​y 53,000 r​esidents have enrolled since mid-March

BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced it is entering the final week for Marylanders to enroll in health insurance coverage through the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period and the Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program. Maryland made the decision to re-open the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period and extend the deadline in an effort to give more residents the opportunity to enroll. Both are set to end on July 15.

The deadline extension for the Coronavirus Special Enrollment Period comes as more than 49,000 residents have received coverage during this special enrollment period that began in March with Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement of a State of Emergency in Maryland. Even before this extension, Maryland already offered one of the longest special enrollment periods in the country since the emergency began.

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?

via MNsure (this was actually posted a couple of weeks ago but I missed it):

ST. PAUL, Minn.—99,688 Minnesotans have come to MNsure.org and enrolled in private health insurance through a special enrollment period (SEP) or received eligibility for a public assistance program (Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare) since March 1. As expected, sign-ups across all programs have been driven by concerns amid the pandemic.

"It’s never been more important to know you’re covered. That’s why we are so glad to have been able to help almost 100,000 Minnesotans gain access to comprehensive health care coverage," said CEO Nate Clark. "But we know there are others out there who are currently uninsured and may qualify to sign up. If you’ve recently lost your employer-sponsored health insurance, had an income change, or have another qualifying life event, come to MNsure.org to see if you’re eligible."

For the past few months, I've been keeping track, to the best of my ability, of how many people have been enrolling in ACA exchange policies utilizing the COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods which have been offered by 12 of the 13 state-based exchanges (SBEs). My most recent update brings the grand total of confirmed SEP enrollments to at least 260,000 across 8 states, averaging around 3,500 per day.

The actual number is obviously higher than this, of course, since I don't have any data from the other four state exchanges (DC, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont), although three of those four are pretty small anyway...and even in New York, their unique "Essential Plan" (the Basic Health Plan program established under the ACA itself) has likely been sucking up the bulk of individual market enrollees earning up to 200% FPL anyway...and you can enroll in the Essential Plan year-round regardless of the pandemic. I therefore doubt that NY's COVID SEP numbers for those earning more than 200% FPL are that dramatic. All told, I'd expect NY, RI, VT & DC to only add perhaps another 25,000 or so QHP enrollees to the table below:

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:

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