Marketplace enrollment back open amid pandemic jobless spike

Marketplace open enrollment runs through May 15.
Marketplace open enrollment runs through May 15.

More people lost health insurance over the course of the pandemic when jobs disappeared, so the Biden administration has opened up an additional open enrollment period on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Open enrollment is Feb. 15 through May 15. Coverage begins the first day of the month following the date of plan selection.

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People can sign up on HealthCare.gov, through the free marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596, or through other places where you can get direct help enrolling like at a community health center or directly through an insurance company.

Anytime you lose a job thus your job-based health insurance, you get a window to buy insurance through the marketplace. But many people did not buy insurance during their window, so this open enrollment period is intended to give people a second chance to get insured and build awareness of options.

“The real reason they are doing this is because so many people have lost their jobs and the marketplace was not advertised very well with the last administration,” said Ron Irvine, a local marketplace insurance navigator. “And they are doing pretty extensive advertising about it now.”

Irvine works for HRS Erase LLC and his team’s service area includes the Dayton area. The navigators are people who get federal training and funding to help walk people through their options for marketplace insurance and help people figure out if they qualify for subsidies.

HRS can be reached at 1-855-894-2711, helmeenroll.org or navigator@aspiron.com.

Many people can get some type of help paying for their marketplace insurance. In 2020, Kaiser Family Foundation reported 84% of marketplace enrollees received tax credits that reduced their monthly premium and just under half also received cost sharing reductions that lower deductibles in silver-level plans.

An estimated 8.9 million uninsured Americans are eligible for marketplace subsidies today but not enrolled, Kaiser Family Foundation reported earlier this month, and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in this population.

Some people will qualify for “free” bronze plans and not have any premium costs, but a Kaiser survey found 75% of uninsured individuals are not interested in free bronze plans with such high deductibles.

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Irvine said the deductibles for these types of plans are “just sky high” which many people don’t want but might be an option for some people. Deductibles for bronze plans can approach $7,000 a year but range by plan and circumstance.

Community health centers can also help people understand their options for enrolling and look at whether people qualify for Medicaid or marketplace insurance. Dayton-based Five Rivers Health Centers outreach and enrollment coordinator Tiana Shaw can talk with people and schedule appointments to discuss marketplace and other insurance options at (937) 734-6727.

In Ohio, about 196,800 individuals signed up for marketplace insurance during open enrollment for 2020.

How to sign up

Go to Healthcare.gov or call the free federal marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596. To find local help with evaluating options, go to localhelp.healthcare.gov and search by city, state or zip code.

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