In efforts to ease consumers’ concerns about healthcare costs in light of the COVID-19 crisis, at least nine states have reopened their health insurance exchanges for uninsured residents to enroll in coverage.
The response stems from the necessity for uninsured patients to be able to receive the medical care they need without being driven away by costs during these uncertain times.
“Uninsured residents who don’t get tested for the novel coronavirus because of the fear of costs for that and treatment would represent an extremely weak link in the response chain and would make things much worse.”Michael Marchand, Chief Marketing Officer for Washington Health Benefit Exchange
Traditionally under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), consumers who buy their own insurance must purchase a policy during the state’s designated enrollment period. If an individual does not purchase a plan and does not qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP), they cannot obtain health insurance for that plan year. (Consumers can enroll in health insurance outside of the enrollment period should they experience a qualified life event, such as losing health coverage due to job loss, getting married, or having a child.)
The states who have recently reopened exchanges for uninsured residents to sign up for health insurance include Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Washington. California’s exchange has been open for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, however, the state announced it will continue to allow residents to enroll through June due to the chaos caused by the coronavirus. The District of Columbia is also allowing residents to sign up for coverage for reasons other than those connected to the outbreak.
SEP details vary by state. Meaning, some states are making coverage available to people without insurance, as well as those with short-term health insurance that does not offer comprehensive benefits. Meanwhile, other states are allowing SEPs only for people who are without coverage. For most states, people enrolling now will have access to health insurance coverage as soon as April 1st.
According to state officials, multiple people have signed up for a health plan and have been enrolled within the first 72 hours. Some unemployed individuals have reported that they went online, signed up for a plan and were enrolled the next morning.
Information provided by NPR.
For more information surrounding responses to the need for Special Enrollment Periods, we encourage you to visit your state’s website, as well as your insurance carrier’s if covered by your employer. The Creative Benefits Team will keep you updated as the situation evolves. Stay safe and healthy!