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More than 500K Americans have enrolled in marketplace coverage during the special enrollment period

Getting more consumers covered means less uncompensated care for hospitals, which places significant importance on access.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Screenshot of healthcare.govScreenshot of healthcare.gov

More than half a million consumers have already signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov as a result of the Biden Administration's Special Enrollment Period for the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The SEP, along with the additional financial assistance afforded by the American Rescue Plan, offers up the possibility of reduced premiums, increased savings and affordable health coverage through the marketplaces using the federal platform, Becerra said.

The report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which covers plan selections from February 15 to March 31, also shows gains in enrollment among historically uninsured communities, including Black consumers and Americans near the poverty level. 

Of applicants who identified a race, 17% identified as Black – compared to about 11% in both 2020 and 2019 during the same time period. Among consumers requesting financial assistance, 41% report being at or slightly above the federal poverty level, compared to 38% in 2020 and 33% in 2019.

Nearly 15 million Americans who currently lack health insurance, and many current enrollees, are eligible to receive additional financial support in obtaining marketplace coverage as part of the ARP. An average of four out of five consumers currently enrolled in marketplace coverage can now find a plan for $10 or less per month after financial assistance.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

Getting more consumers covered means less uncompensated care for hospitals.

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 three 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.

For its part, CMS is also focusing on outreach efforts and announced last month an additional $2.3 million in funding available to current Navigator grantees in federally facilitated marketplace states to support outreach, education and enrollment efforts around the 2021 SEP. 

CMS is also spending an additional $50 million toward outreach and an education campaign, which includes broadcast and digital advertising –and educating consumers through email and text messages. 

While the 2021 SEP is available to all marketplace-eligible consumers in HealthCare.gov states, particular outreach efforts are focused on reaching diverse communities in response to the Biden Administration's goals on health equity.

The 2021 SEP is available to consumers in the 36 states with marketplaces that use the HealthCare.gov platform through August 15.

THE LARGER TREND

In a break from his predecessor, President Joe Biden supports the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law when he was vice president to President Barack Obama.

During his campaign, Biden promised to strengthen the ACA and offer a public health insurance option. After Biden's election, the Department of Justice shifted its stance on the legality of the ACA before the Supreme Court. A decision is expected to be handed up before June.

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Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com