The usual deadline to apply for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act was Dec. 15, 2020. It’s now been extended to Aug. 15, 2021.
Our last several weeks of blog posts have been about health insurance and medical bills. Two weeks ago we got into the topic of health insurance and bankruptcy. Last week was a Q&A about medical bankruptcy. Today we provide urgent information about the current extended Special Enrollment Period for getting insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Two Key Changes
In the last several months there have been two major developments with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). First, a Special Enrollment Period allowed people to start health insurance coverage way past the usual December 15, 2020 deadline. Second, the American Rescue Plan Act lowered the cost of monthly premiums under the Affordable Care Act, often significantly.
The Special Enrollment Period
Normally you would have to apply to get or change coverage for 2021 by last December 15. The exception would be if you had a “life change” that qualified you for a Special Enrollment Period. These included household changes such as getting married, residence changes such as to a different county or zip code, or the loss of health insurance. Enroll in or change 2021 plans — only with a Special Enrollment Period, webpage at healthcare.gov.
However there’s now a blanket Special Enrollment Period based on the pandemic’s public health emergency. In late January, this Special Enrollment Period opened from February 15 through May 15, 2021, enabling new people to enroll for health care insurance coverage. Also, people already receiving coverage through the Affordable Care Act could change plans during this period. See White House Executive Order of Jan. 28, 2021, and Fact Sheet: 2021 Special Enrollment Period in response to the COVID-19 Emergency of the same date.
In March 2021 this Special Enrollment Period was extended through August 15, 2021, which is the current deadline. U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Press Release of March 23, 2021.
Lower Priced—and Possibly $0—Monthly Insurance Premiums
Most people who were on Affordable Care Act insurance plan before the American Rescue Plan Act are paying lower premiums for the same insurance plan because of this new law. Premiums are slated to be about $50 less per person per month, or about $85 less per policy. American Rescue Plan and the [Health Insurance] Marketplace, March 12, 2021 Fact Sheet from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
About 14.9 million Americans who currently lack health insurance will be able to save money on their premiums to find the coverage they need at a price they can afford….
U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Press Release of March 12, 2021.
Partly as a result of these changes in the law, close to a million people signed up for Affordable Care Act coverage in the period from February 15 through April 30, 2021. More than half of these signed up in April, after the increased subsidies kicked in on April 1. New York Times article of May 6, 2021.
How to Get or Change Coverage
To enroll in an insurance plan, or to change plans, go to healthcare.gov’s New, lower costs on Marketplace coverage webpage. There you can find out if you qualify for Health Care Marketplace coverage. You can also preview available plan details and prices based on your income.
Remember that the deadline is August 15, 2021. However, since the American Rescue Plan Act subsidies have already kicked in as of April 1, 2021, the sooner you enroll or change your policy likely the better.