SEPs

Yesterday's press release from Covered California included a TON of important information about how they're handling the massive subsidy upgrade/expansion under the American Rescue Plan, but it left out one other critically important item which was caught by Inside Health Policy reporter Amy Lotven:

Insurers participating in Covered California have agreed to help move their off-exchange individual plan enrollees into the marketplace so they can benefit from the new Affordable Care Act subsidies available under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and will not reset the deductibles, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said Thursday (March 18) in a webinar with reporters and key stakeholders.

...Off-exchange enrollees could get an average $500 premium drop, which means they could save as much as $12,000 under the two-year provision, Lee says. About 430,000 Californians and 1.5 million people nationally who are enrolled off-exchange plans are newly eligible for help, the exchange estimates.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange has issued a new press release which on the surface doesn't seem terribly unusual--it touts an impressive number of Maryland residents having gained healthcare coverage since they first launched their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

What's unusual about this PR is that it's listing the cumulative number of people who've gained coverage since they launched their first COVID SEP a year ago:

MORE THAN 140,000 COVERED SINCE MARYLAND HEALTH CONNECTION LAUNCHED COVID-19 SPECIAL ENROLLMENT ONE YEAR AGO

  • 236,000 WHO STILL LACK COVERAGE COULD GET IT FOR FREE OR WITH SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL HELP

(MARCH 17, 2021) BALTIMORE — Yesterday marked one year since the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange launched a Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period in response to the public health emergency declared by Gov. Larry Hogan.

via MNsure:

Over 2,200 Minnesotans have signed up for health coverage through MNsure's special enrollment period so far

  • Special enrollment runs through May 17

ST. PAUL, Minn.—2,285 Minnesotans have signed up for private health insurance coverage since the start of MNsure's special enrollment period on February 16. This three-month special enrollment period, which runs through Monday, May 17, is available to any Minnesotan who is uninsured or who is not currently enrolled in a qualified health plan through MNsure. 

Minnesotans who want coverage to start on April 1 must enroll by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31. Plans selected during the month of April will have an effective date of May 1, and plans selected by the May 17 deadline will have an effective date of June 1.

I just received the following COVID Enrollment Period update from Pennie, Pennsylvania's new state-based ACA exchange. This appears to be part of an official report which they're still working on.

The "Existing" numbers refer to current Pennie enrollees who are taking advantage of the COVID SEP to switch to a different plan mid-year; this is something which usually isn't allowed, even during traditional Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs), but Pennie, along with HealthCare.Gov and many of the other state-based exchanges, are allowing them to do so during this period.

There's an obvious reason for this, too: The impending passage of the American Rescue Plan will mean dramatically improved/expanded subsidies for ACA enrollees, including many who haven't been eligible for them until now. This means millions of Americans who enrolled in Bronze plans because they weren't eligible for subsidies will be able to upgrade to Silver or Gold; it also means many people will become eligible for $0-premium plans who currently aren't, and so on.

This just in via Connect for Health Colorado:

One Month In, More Than 4,000 Coloradans Sign Up During Exchange's Uninsured Enrollment Period

DENVER – 4,683 previously uninsured Coloradans signed up for a 2021 health insurance plan through Colorado’s Exchange between Monday, February 8 and the end of day Friday, March 5. That’s more than 1,000 new medical enrollments each week during the first month of Colorado’s Uninsured Enrollment Period.

That's an average of 180/day over 26 days for Colorado. I don't know exactly how many Special Enrollment Period (SEP) enrollees they had during the same time period in prior years, but I can estimate based on their monthly dashboards:

via KNPR:

In the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden reopened enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges.

For Nevadans, that means the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange is back in business.

The exchange connects Nevadans to health plans compliant with the Affordable Care Act, and it’s the only place consumers can access any federal subsidies.

“As soon as Nevada learned of the news from the federal government, we took immediate action to plan and collaborate with our insurance carriers and the statewide network of 750-plus brokers and navigators to implement a seamless, streamlined process for Nevadans,” said Heather Korbulic, executive director of Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.

Korbulic told KNPR's State of Nevada that there has already been a lot of interest from people around the state. 

"We're pretty excited about the uptake that we've already started seeing and we think this is a wonderful opportunity for Nevadans to get connected to Nevada HealthLink," she said.

via Access Health CT:

Access Health CT To Host Two Educational “Healthy Chats” During Special Enrollment Period

  • Free Virtual Sessions to Help Uninsured Connecticut Residents Get Covered    

HARTFORD, Conn. (March 4, 2021) — Access Health CT (AHCT) announced today it will host two educational sessions called “Healthy Chats” on Tuesday, March 9 at 6:00 p.m. and Wednesday, March 10 at 6:00 p.m. (Spanish only) to help Connecticut residents learn about plan options, financial help, low-cost and free coverage and tips to stay covered during the Special Enrollment Period that runs until March 15, 2021*. The Special Enrollment Period is for consumers who are not currently enrolled in coverage through AHCT.

About these Healthy Chats

The Healthy Chat events are free and will be held virtually via Zoom (in English & Spanish). To join, attendees can access the event here, or here.

Back in late January, when it became clear that the Biden Administration was planning on announcing some sort of "no excuse needed" COVID Special Enrollment Period for the federal ACA exchange, I did a little back-of-the-envelope math to try and get an idea of how many additional people might enroll via HealthCare.Gov than you'd normally see via "standard" Special Enrollment Periods.

At the time, I concluded that for a 60-day SEP of this nature (that is, one completely open to all comers regardless of whether they had a Qualifying Life Experience (QLE)or not), you might be looking at perhaps an extra 400,000 people. selecting plans during that time period. This would be on top of the 4,200/day who enrolled thru HC.gov between the end of Open Enrollment and the end of May via SEPs over the past couple of years, which would be roughly 254,000 for a 60-day period.

As I did when Access Health CT released their 2021 OEP report, there's so much data here I'm not gonna bother doing any analysis in this entry; I'll just post the most relevant slides for now.

Note: Pennie refers to it as their 2020 annual report, but the enrollment data refers to the 2021 Open Enrollment Period.

OK, Covered California hasn't actually released an official press release or Open Enrollment Report, but I have acquired a single slide which was delivered at a university presentation by Covered CA head Peter Lee the other day. It doesn't provide tons of detail but give the most important toplines (the way the graph breaks out the numbers is a little confusing but I figured it out:

  • Total QHP selections from 11/01/20 - 1/31/21: 1.63 million, a record high for the state

This is a 5.9% increase year over year from the 2020 OEP's 1.54 million (it says 1.57 million on the graph but the official CMS tally is 1,538,819).

Aside from Health Sherpa's announcement the other day that they enrolled over 3x as many people in ACA exchange plans in the first week of the COVID Special Enrollment Period than they normally would via traditional SEPs during the same time period, there's been no hard COVID SEP data released...until now. Via the Washington HealthPlan Finder:

Special Enrollment Period for Health Coverage Now Available

  • Currently uninsured or those seeking new coverage can enroll today on Washington HealthplanfinderOLYMPIA, Wash.

Washington Healthplanfinder is now offering a special enrollment period for Washingtonians who are currently uninsured or seeking new coverage. This special enrollment period, in response to the current public health emergency, opened Feb. 15 and runs for 90 days, ending May 15, 2021.

via MNsure:

Last Chance for March 1 Coverage Through MNsure; Special Enrollment Period Continues Through May 17

February 24, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Minnesotans looking for private health insurance coverage through MNsure that begins on March 1 need to enroll by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 28. Plans selected in March will have an effective date of April 1. MNsure's special enrollment period continues through Monday, May 17, and is available to any Minnesotan who is uninsured or who is not currently enrolled in a qualified health plan through MNsure.

“If you’re looking for health insurance coverage, be sure to check out your options at MNsure.org and get access to comprehensive coverage as soon as possible or prevent a gap in current coverage,” said MNsure CEO Nate Clark. “MNsure's special enrollment period continues through May 17, but Sunday, February 28, is your last chance to get coverage starting in March. Don’t miss out."

Instructions to enroll and frequently asked questions about this special enrollment period can be found here.

Help is available:

Disclosure: Health Sherpa is a paid sponsor of this site.

Back in January, before the ongoing COVID Enrollment Period was officially announced, I ran some back-of-the-envelope math to try and project just how many additional ACA exchange enrollees might sign up nationally due to the addition of a "no questions asked" Special Enrollment Period (SEP) being formally launched across every state, as opposed to the patchwork of COVID SEPs we saw across a dozen states last spring/summer.

I extrapolated those numbers out nationally and estimated that total on-exchange enrollment might increase by perhaps 400,000 more people thanks to a 60-day COVID SEP...that is, 400K more than the "normal" number who typically enroll during that same time period for traditional SEP reasons (losing employer coverage, turning 26, getting married/divorced, moving, giving birth/adopting, etc).

via Pennie, Pennsylvania's new state-based ACA exchange:

Pennie Opens a COVID-19 Enrollment Period Which Will Run Until May 15

  • Uninsured Pennsylvanians or those affected by COVID-19 can visit pennie.comand enroll in a plan through May 15.  

 Harrisburg, PA – February 17, 2021 – Uninsured Pennsylvanians can act now and enroll in 2021 coverage during Pennie’s COVID-19 Enrollment Period. Pennie, Pennsylvania’s state-based health insurance marketplace, is proud to provide individuals across the Commonwealth additional time to enroll in health insurance to protect them and their families from the cost of the COVID-19 virus. This enrollment period is in-line with President Biden’s recent Executive Order and is open for all Pennsylvanians who have been impacted by COVID-19. Anyone otherwise eligible to enroll in coverage through Pennie™ can do so from now until May 15.

via the Nevada Health Link...

Special Enrollment Period through Nevada Health Link begins February 15

  • Uninsured Nevadans will have 90 more days to enroll in a qualified health plan for 2021 coverage

Nevada Health Link, the online health insurance marketplace operated by the state agency, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange), begins its 90-day Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for uninsured Nevadans, starting February 15 through May 15, 2021. The SEP is in accordance with the Executive Order issued by President Biden last month, in response to the ongoing national health emergency presented by COVID-19.

*(Yes, believe it or not, I was able to come up with an extreme example of an older couple in Oklahoma managing to save a jaw-dropping $64,000/year in heath insurance premiums if the American Rescue Plan is passed, signed and implemented.)

When President Biden announced that HealthCare.Gov would be re-launching an extended Special Enrollment Period in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn't surprised at all; in fact, I would have been shocked if he hadn't ordered the HHS Dept. to do so. I was surprised by how long the new COVID Enrollment Period would be: A full 3 months (I had been expecting either 30, 45 or perhaps 60 days at the outside).

The more I thought about it, however, I realized three good reasons to re-open HC.gov all the way out until mid-May. The first two I already wrote about several weeks ago:

This was already announced earlier, but here's the formal press release with some more details for Minnesota residents:

MNsure three-month special enrollment period begins Tuesday

  • Interested Minnesotans should visit MNsure.org to learn more

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Starting Tuesday, MNsure, Minnesota's health insurance marketplace, will open a three-month special enrollment period. During this time, any Minnesotan who is not currently enrolled in a plan through MNsure, including those who are uninsured, can take advantage of this enrollment opportunity. MNsure's special enrollment period runs from Tuesday, February 16, to Monday, May 17. Those who enroll in a plan during the special enrollment period will have coverage that begins on the first of the following month. For example, Minnesotans who select a plan and enroll in February will have a March 1 start date.

via the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid:

2021 Special Enrollment Period for Marketplace Coverage Starts on HealthCare.gov Monday, February 15

  • SEP allows consumers to enroll in affordable health coverage during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

 Today, in accordance with the Executive Order signed by President Biden, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is announcing that the Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for the Health Insurance Marketplace® will officially be available to consumers in the 36 states that use the HealthCare.gov platform on Monday, February 15, and will continue through Saturday, May 15. At least 13 States plus the District of Columbia, which operate their own Marketplace platforms, have decided to offer a similar opportunity.

DC Health Link, the District of Columbia's ACA exchange, has released a new 2021 Open Enrollment report, and while the numbers aren't surprising, they're also a bit fuzzy for a couple of reasons.

Officially, the new report states that 19,997 DC residents selected an individual market ACA exchange plan, up just 65 people over last year's 19,932 (+0.3%). However, there's several factors which make this a bit misleading:

Five weeks ago the Maryland Health Connection announced they were re-opening ACA enrollment through March 15th in light of the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.

When the Biden Administration announced a few weeks later that the federal ACA exchange, HealthCare.Gov, was planning on re-opening enrollment across 36 states for a full 3 months (from Februay 15th - May 15th), however, I was pretty sure that it would only be a matter of time before most of the state-based exchanges matched up with that time window...and sure enough, via the MD Health Connection:

GOV. HOGAN ANNOUNCES EXTENSION OF STATE HEALTH INSURANCE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD UNTIL MAY 15

A couple of weeks ago I reported that the Washington Healthplan Finder was the one of the first state-based ACA exchanges to announce their own COVID19 Special Enrollment Period to coincide with the federal one being launched via HealthCare.Gov.

At the time, I wrote:

Washington State's appears to be for anyone who'd otherwise be eligible during Open Enrollment, which amounts to the same thing as full Open Enrollment. That means even those who are already enrolled in an ACA exchange plan will be able to switch to a different plan mid-year.

Well, so much for that; the Washington Health Benefit Exchange has issued a new press release ahead of the February 15th COVID SEP launch clarifying who's eligible and who isn't:

New Special Enrollment Period for Health Coverage Opens February 15

With this press release from AccessHealth CT, 49 states +DC have now announced some sort of 2021 COVID-19 Enrollment Period:

ACCESS HEALTH CT ANNOUNCES A SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR UNINSURED RESIDENTS DUE TO ONGOING PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS

I just received confirmation from Vermont Health Connect that they're joining nearly every other state in offering an official COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period...with a few caveats:

Special Enrollment Period for Uninsured Vermonters Opens February 16, 2021

Waterbury, VT— In alignment with the Federal initiative, the State of Vermont is re-opening a special enrollment period on February 16, 2021 to offer Vermonters who do not currently have health insurance an opportunity to enroll in a qualified health plan and receive premium and cost-sharing assistance, if eligible. Intended to facilitate access to health insurance, the special enrollment period is being implemented in partnership with qualified health plan issuers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, MVP Health Care, and Northeast Delta Dental. To enroll, Vermonters should call the Customer Support Center at 1-855-899- 9600 Monday through Friday, 8:00AM – 4:30PM.

This Just In via NJ Governor Murphy and Get Covered New Jersey:

Governor Murphy Announces Health Insurance Signups In New Jersey Surpass Previous Two Years

  • Urges Residents to Get Covered During New COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period
  • 9.4% Increase in Plan Selections from 2020, Enrollment Remains Open Until May 15

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today announced that health insurance signups through New Jersey’s new state-based marketplace surpassed the Open Enrollment Period for the previous two years in New Jersey. Plan selections for 2021 coverage increased 9.4 percent over last year’s Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period, as the state successfully expanded access to health coverage through its new state-based marketplace, Get Covered New Jersey, during its first open enrollment period.

Huh...this is interesting. I noted a few weeks back that the Massachusetts Health Connector reported 11% fewer people had enrolled in Qualifying Health Plans (QHPs) for 2021 as of mid-January than they had during the 2020 Open Enrollment Period. At the time, they were running about 6% behind year over year, and attributed the enrollment drop (the first in the MA Health Connector's history since the first Open Enrollment Period back in 2013-2014) primarily to Medicaid enrollment:

Lower membership is primarily the result of decreased new enrollments rather than termination of existing members, likely due to Medicaid protections associated with the federal public health emergency.

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