Affordable Care Act Special Enrollment Periods During Coronavirus

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that health is on everyone’s minds. And it’s during a major health crisis when you need good healthcare at affordable prices. But if you lost your job because of coronavirus, you’ve probably lost your health insurance too. After having your income wiped out from getting laid off, it’s going to be tough to find hundreds of bucks to pay for a good medical plan. 

Most folks have heard about Covid-19 stimulus packages and have already gotten a $1,200 check in the mail. But many people don’t know what to do about health insurance. But if you get sick with Covid-19, have an accident, or catch any other nasty bug, being without health coverage is pretty grim. However, if your health care plan disappeared with your job, don’t give up hope — options are available.

One option is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In March, workers who were laid off due to Covid-19 were entitled to a special enrollment period. Up until the end of May, getting healthcare coverage under the ACA is possible in most states.

Coronavirus and the ACA: Unemployment and Health Insurance Statistics

The coronavirus crisis has impacted every aspect of life. With staying healthy being top of our to-do list, we’re hand sanitizing, social distancing, self-isolating, and wearing face coverings outside. Since the outbreak, over 38 million have filed for unemployment — many for the first time. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), over 27 million US residents have also lost their health insurance. The same study found that 80% of newly uninsured folks could qualify for coverage under the ACA. 

KFF reports that the average cost of treating severe cases of Covid-19 can top $20,000. So, getting a healthcare plan sorted out should also be high on your to-do list.

If you’re worried about getting new health coverage because you lost your job, this article has the answers on ACA special enrollment due to coronavirus. You’ll also find out about Medicare enrollment in 2020.

Coronavirus Affordable Cares Act (ACA) Special Enrollment

If you’ve recently started receiving unemployment benefits, you may have trouble stretching that cash till the end of the month — never mind paying for enormous medical bills. So, the only alternative is to look for cheaper health insurance options such as Medicaid if you’re unemployed. 

Under the CARES Act, the government provided a special enrollment period to register for Medicaid. However, only a few states still have special enrollment periods open after the end of May 2020. These are: 

  • California — Special enrollment is open through June 30, 2020.
  • Maryland Coronavirus ACA enrollment is available through June 15.
  • Massachusetts — Special enrollment period extended through June 23.
  • Vermont — You have until June 15 to register for ACA marketplace enrollment.
  • District of Columbia — Coronavirus Medicare and ACA marketplace enrollment ends after June 15.

What can you do if your health insurance disappeared along with your job? The answer could be in the special enrollment period for 2020 that the HEROES Act proposes.

How the Proposed HEROES Act Could Impact Healthcare Policy

The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on May 15, 2020. The bill has broad implications for healthcare policies in helping people deal with the financial and health impact of Covid-19. Let’s look at the effect that three new proposals in the HEROES Act could have on healthcare in 2020 and 2021.

Special enrollment period extended in 2020

Under proposals in the HEROES bill, special enrollment periods (SEPs) would help ensure that most Americans can qualify for an affordable health plan. It would be possible to enroll in the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces and also enroll in Medicare. This coronavirus ACA special enrollment would continue until the end of the pandemic.

Another SEP would be established to allow folks receiving COBRA subsidies to switch to the ACA marketplace. This proposal would lift the financial burden of paying full health insurance premiums under COBRA after January 2021.

Changes in COBRA financing

One of the problems the HEROES Act addresses is the high cost of unemployed people continuing to pay for insurance under COBRA. This program allowed ex-employees to continue paying into their previous employer’s insurance plan. However, it means paying the full amount — hardly something you can do if you’re unemployed in a down economy.

The HEROES Act would cover the cost of financing COBRA premiums through the end of January 2021. After that date, individuals could participate in the ACA’s health insurance exchanges.

Covid-19 testing and treatment

Another impact the HEROES Act could have on healthcare policy is treating the effects of being sick with Covid-19. If the Senate passes the bill, all coronavirus testing and treatment would be free. This proposal means you would have no out-of-pocket costs to cover if you end up hospitalized for Covid-19.

Of course, under the CARES act, you can receive Covid-19 testing for free — provided you have a medical referral. However, paying for treatment if you have coronavirus complications comes from your health insurance plan and your pocket in copays. According to KFF, out-of-pocket costs could top $1,300 — and even more, if you’ve got a high deductible plan. 

Other ways the HEROES Act could impact the healthcare system

To deal with coronavirus’s impact, HEROES goes further than extending ACA special enrollment periods, boosting COBRA funding, and offering free Covid-19 treatment. HEROES is a $3 trillion stimulus package to pump money into the economy and healthcare. 

Here are a few more ways HEROES could bolster health policies:

  • Medicaid — The bill provides more funding to Medicaid to increase spending by 14% through June 30, 2021. More cash would also be available for Home and Community-Based Services.
  • Extra funding for medical facilities — An additional $100 billion would help compensate hospitals and health care providers for extra coronavirus-related expenses. 
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) — the Act would give an extra $4.74 billion to the NIH for research related to Covid-19. This is in addition to the $945 billion that the CARES Act allocated.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — To fund further research into pandemic-related issues, HEROES would allocate $2.1 billion to the CDC. This would also and also address future health needs,

Special Enrollment Periods for Medicare and ACA

Many people who’ve lost employment due to the coronavirus crisis benefited from SEPs to ensure they have health insurance. However, not everyone was able to enroll, and millions missed out because they were recently made unemployed. The HEROES Act would extend coronavirus ACA special enrollment until the end of the pandemic.