Some health experts are urging the federal government to establish a nationwide special enrollment period for health care as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the tidal wave of layoffs the related economic lockdown has triggered.
In an open letter to Congress on June 17, a group of CEOs and some health experts laid out the need for lawmakers to open a one-time nationwide special enrollment period.
“We are calling on you to use this existing system to support millions of Americans who need it now,” the group wrote. “Unfortunately, current requirements to qualify for existing SEPs create friction that gets in the way of Americans enrolling in new coverage or coverage for the first time — you have the power to remove it.”
Twelve states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- that control their own marketplace have established special enrollment periods to allow people to obtain coverage.
More than 50 percent of Americans get their health insurance through their employer. Since mid-March, close to 47 million Americans have sought jobless aid. A recent analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute forecast that 3.5 million workers lost their insurance in just the last two weeks of March.
If there is not a federal special enrollment period, individuals who lose their jobs still have options in obtaining coverage.
But for individuals who do not experience what's considered to be a life-changing event, they'll have to wait until the yearly period when they're allowed to make changes to their benefits -- or what's known as the open enrollment period.
This year, open enrollment for 2021 coverage through the Affordable Care Act will start on Nov. 1 and run through Dec. 15 (although some states, including California and Colorado, have permanently extended their open enrollment periods).
If you purchase your health insurance from your employer, your open enrollment period might change each year. Timing depends on several factors, but selection typically takes place during the fall. During that time period, you can purchase a different plan, or choose to not get one at all.
Medicare open enrollment, meanwhile, takes place from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. Unlike other health care recipients, Medicare beneficiaries have other time periods during the year when they can amend their benefits.