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CMS opens special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act

As many as 3 million people lost their employer-based coverage between March and September of 2020.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services today opened the special enrollment period for the federal health insurance marketplace, which will continue until May 15.

Consumers in the 36 states that use the platform, in addition to 13 states plus the District of Columbia that operate their own insurance marketplace platforms, will be able to enroll for healthcare coverage.

CMS has also launched an outreach program to amplify awareness of the special enrollment period among the uninsured. The agency is collaborating with community-based stakeholders to reach groups that historically have lower access to health coverage and greater health disparities, it said in the announcement.

During each month of the special enrollment period, CMS plans to release data on consumer activities. The first report will be released in March and will include consumers who enrolled in February. It also intends to issue a final report after May 15 covering the entire period.


More than 35 million individuals were uninsured in the second half of 2019, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The pandemic has only increased that figure, and as many as 3 million people lost their employer-based coverage between March and September of 2020, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The special enrollment period intends to give the millions of uninsured or underinsured individuals access to affordable health coverage.


CMS' action today follows President Biden's executive order from January that intended to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. The goal is to make health insurance available for those who lost their coverage along with their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the Department of Justice alerted the Supreme Court that it has changed its position on the ACA. Following the change in administration, the DOJ has reconsidered the government's position and now takes the position that the ACA can stand, even though there is no longer a mandate for consumers to have health insurance or face a tax penalty.

Based on data from the normal open enrollment period, enrollment remained stable this year compared with 2020. The results show plan selections this year increased by 7% from 2020, despite a decline in new consumers. Also, for the fourth straight year, the consumer satisfaction rate at the call center remained high – averaging over 90% – throughout the entire stretch.


"President Biden was clear: We need to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and give more Americans access to healthcare, especially during this pandemic, which has further demonstrated the importance of having the right coverage," said HHS acting Secretary Norris Cochran. "This Special Enrollment Period will give Americans who need affordable, quality health insurance an opportunity to get covered, and we encourage folks to head to starting on Monday to explore their options."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
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