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:
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.
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.
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
I've written a LOT lately about the dozen state-based ACA exchanges which have implemented COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods for uninsured residents...as well as the two ACA exchanges (Idaho's, which is state-based, and The Big One, HealthCare.Gov, which hosts 38 states) which haven't done so as of yet.
Given how much outrage there's been at the federal government for not opening up HC.gov to a COVID SEP (Idaho has somehow managed to escape notice for making the same decision) by practically every party (even the American Enterprise Institute, which isn't exactly a lefty organization, is calling for one), it's worth taking a look at the states which do have COVID SEPs open to anyone uninsured to see just how many people are actually taking advantage of them.
Over the years, I've estimated that even during the off-season (that is, outside of the official annual ACA Open Enrollment Period window), around 7,000 - 9,000 Americans typically enroll in ACA exchange coverage each and every day via Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs).
SEPs are typically a 60-day enrollment window during which you're eligible to #GetCovered via your state's ACA exchange if you have a Qualifying Life Experience (QLE), such as losing your existing healthcare coverage; getting married or divorced (and thus losing your current coverage); giving birth or adopting a child (to add them to your policy); turning 26 and being dropped from your parents plan; moving outside of your current state or rating area; getting out of prison or the military; becoming ineligible for Medicaid due to your income increasing; and a few other reasons.
Today, on top of several other state-based exchanges bumping out their COVID SEP deadlines, it appears that NY is doing so as well. This is hardly surprising given that the state has been slammed the hardest of any in the country by the pandemic.
Connect for Health Colorado Extends Emergency Special Enrollment Period until April 30 in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak
DENVER — Due to the growing number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and increased need for health coverage, Connect for Health Colorado will extend an Emergency Special Enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans until Thursday, April 30, 2020.
Since March 20, approximately 5,200 individuals protected their health and safety by signing up for a health insurance plan through this Special Enrollment period. People who enroll during the extended timeframe will have coverage as of May 1.
Back on March 10th, Washington State, which was one of the first states hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, was also the first state with their own full ACA exchange to announce a Special Enrollment Period specifically in response to the crisis. It originally was scheduled to last about a month, with a deadline to #GetCovered of April 8th.
Washington Healthplanfinder Extends Current Special Enrollment Period, Gives Extra Month for Uninsured to Secure Health Coverage
In response to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Washington state, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today announced it is extending the current special enrollment period for individuals who are uninsured.
Administrative Information Bulletin 03-20
Amendment to Administrative Bulletin 02-20 Guidance Regarding Special Enrollment Periods Due to the Emergence of the Novel Coronavirus SARS-Cov-2, Which Causes the Disease COVID-19
March 30, 2020
For a couple of weeks now, I've been posting constant updates as one state-based ACA exchange after another has announced a COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Period in light of the ongoing pandemic crisis. Until now, though, there's been two ACA exchanges which haven't made such an announcement. One is the Big One, HealthCare.Gov, which hosts a whopping 38 states and which is facing increasing pressure to do so.
MNsure Announces Special Enrollment Period for Uninsured Minnesotans in Response to Growing COVID-19 Concerns
ST. PAUL, Minn.—Today MNsure announced a 30-day special enrollment period (SEP) for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance, in response to the potential growth of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. This SEP that begins Monday, March 23, and runs through April 21, will allow uninsured individuals 30 days to enroll in health insurance coverage through MNsure.org.
“As more cases of COVID-19 are diagnosed throughout the state, we want to make sure every Minnesotan has the security of health insurance to ensure they can get the care they need if they contract this serious illness,” said MNsure CEO Nate Clark. “Uninsured Minnesotans can come to MNsure.org to sign up for coverage.”
Governor Tim Walz recently declared a peacetime emergency in response to the pandemic and stressed the importance of all Minnesotans to take care to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
No one has been shouting from the rooftops louder than I have for HHS Secretary Alex Azar or CMS Administrator Seema Verma to join nearly all of the state-based ACA exchanges in announcing an official Special Enrollment Period (SEP) in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, and I'm still urging them to do so as soon as possible. The federal ACA exchange, HealthCare.Gov, hosts ACA enrollment for 38 states representing around 75% of the national population, so this is a pretty big deal.
Having said that, it's important to keep in mind that even without a COVID-19-specific SEP, many people already qualify to enroll in ACA-compliant healthcare coverage anyway, whether they're currently uninsured or because they're about to be...or because their personal circumstances are about to change. And none of these have anything to do with the COVID-19 crisis, although it's certainly going to cause a whole lot more people to qualify for two of those changes:
via the Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies Insurance Division, it looks like Connect for Health Colorado is about to go ahead and establish their own COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period after all (this is from an internal draft document...the dates could still change, and it's not 100% guaranteed that they'll go ahead with it yet):
DEPARTMENT OF REGULATORY AGENCIES Division of Insurance 3 CCR 702-4 LIFE, ACCIDENT AND HEALTH
DRAFT Emergency Regulation 20-E-02
CONCERNING ESTABLISHING A SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR ENROLLMENT IN AN INDIVIDUAL HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN RELATED TO COVID-19
...This emergency regulation is promulgated and adopted by the Commissioner of Insurance under the authority of §§ 10-1-108(7)(a), (7)(b)(III), 10-1-109(1), 10-16-105(2)(b), 10-16-105.7(3)(a)(II)(G), 10-16-105.7(3)(b)(II)(F),10-16-108.5(8), and 10-16-109, C.R.S.
Coronavirus emergency launches one-month special enrollment period
As part of the state’s overall response to the coronavirus, and in an effort to prioritize health and safety, Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders.
When will the special enrollment period begin?
The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period will begin Monday, March 16, and end Wednesday, April 15. Coverage will begin April 1, 2020, regardless of when a health plan is selected during that time period.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP) Available to Purchase Coverage through HealthSource RI as a Part of the State’s Response to COVID-19
Special Enrollment Period will be available through April 15, 2020
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (March 14, 2020) — HealthSource RI has adopted a limited-time Special Enrollment Period (SEP), following Governor Raimondo’s State of Emergency declaration in response to the potential growth of Coronavirus (COVID-19). This SEP will allow uninsured Rhode Islanders to purchase coverage through April 15, 2020. Coverage will begin on the first of the month following the application.
Massachusetts Health Connector offers extended enrollment for uninsured individuals to ease coronavirus fears
BOSTON – March 11, 2020 – To ensure everyone who wants access to covered coronavirus services has it, the Massachusetts Health Connector announced today that uninsured residents can apply and get into coverage through a 45-day window running until April 25.
On March 6, the Division of Insurance announced that Massachusetts health insurers are now required to cover the cost of testing and treatment for members who may be affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), including not charging co-pays or deductibles for those services. The Health Connector’s decision to open enrollment to anyone without coverage ensures Massachusetts residents concerned about contracting coronavirus can access necessary services without cost barriers.
Though open enrollment through MNsure has ended, there are still opportunities to enroll through a special enrollment period (SEP). Minnesotans who experience a qualifying life event, like aging off a parent's health insurance (turning 26), getting married, or losing other health coverage, may be eligible to apply. See a complete list of qualifying life events, including coverage start dates.
I just received the following from a healthcare broker, who I trust from past communication exchanges, who wishes to remain anonymous. I'm presenting it as sent, with the only changes being breaking it out into paragraphs for readability & with their state's identifying information removed.
Earlier this week I busted the Trump Administration's CMS division for releasing a misleading report which tried to understate the enrollment retention rate of ACA exchange enrollees. I'm not entirely sure why they did this, since even their "fudged" number wasn't really that much worse than previous years (they tried to make itt look like a March attrition rate of 15.4% vs. the 12.8% and 12.6% from 2015 and 2016 respectively), but for whatever reason, they did so. The short version is that they only included enrollees who paid for their January and February policies instead of also including those who paid their March premiums, as was done in previous years. As far as I can figure, the actual 3/31/17 effectuation rate closer to 11.8%, a slight improvement over 2015 and 2016, though I can't be certain about this without knowing how many of the ~500,000 people who signed up in the last 2 weeks of January paid and were effectuated for March coverage.