UPDATED: On March 23rd, HHS announced that the special enrollment period would be extended to August 15th.
On January 28th, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at stabilizing and strengthening the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid. The President specifically stated that this order does not change any law but rather rolls back actions taken by the Trump administration over the last four years. The intent is restoring the ACA to where it was during the Obama-Biden administration. We'll break down what the executive order does and how it can help you access affordable, quality health insurance.
- Reopening the Marketplaces: The Biden-Harris administration will reopen the federal health insurance marketplaces for a special enrollment period (SEP) from February 15 to August 15, 2021. This 90-day SEP applies to the 36 states which operate their marketplaces through healthcare.gov. This SEP is open to all Americans, not only those who have experienced a qualifying life event (job loss, marriage, birth, etc.). According to new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 15 million uninsured individuals could directly benefit from this action. Of those, an expected 4 million would qualify for free bronze plan with subsidies, while 4.9 million would be able to get coverage with significantly lower premiums (partially subsidized). If you have concerns about getting a bronze plan and your income qualifies, you may also be able to purchase higher metal tier—silver or gold—coverage at much lower premiums and reduced out-of-pocket costs (i.e., deductibles). If your state runs their own marketplace you still may qualify for a SEP, so check your state’s marketplace to see if they are open. If you are unsure about what kind of marketplace is run in your particular state, healthcare.gov will automatically redirect you based on entering your information. Similarly, the marketplace will tell you if you qualify for some form of financial assistance on a plan or Medicaid.
- Increased Outreach: This executive order restores funding that was cut for marketplace navigators and enrollment assistors, as well as on marketing and outreach materials. By increasing outreach, the Biden administration aims to reduce the number those currently uninsured and underinsured. The administration is committed to a broad and robust media and marketing campaign letting individuals know that enrollment is open and it they qualify for financial assistance.
- Strengthening Medicaid and the ACA: The administration is directing all agencies to re-examine demonstration projects and waivers that undermine the intent and integrity of the Medicaid program including work requirements. In addition, they are broadly looking at all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, and policies that made it harder for people to enroll in Medicaid and Marketplace plans and weaken consumer protections.
As with any administrative and regulatory changes, there will be ample time for NHF to provide comments and ensure that the consumer protections provided through the ACA remain. NHF will continue to monitor this and update you regarding these actions.