Tuesday marked the beginning of a special open enrollment period for anyone who needs health insurance or is interested in changing their 2021 plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace as implemented under the Affordable Care Act. The special open enrollment will run through May 15, and the folks at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy have offered up answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding this three-month run.
Traditionally, the open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace runs from Nov. 1-Dec. 15. During Donald Trump’s presidency, the signup windows got smaller and publicity was tampered down to practically nothing. For example, the Trump administration spent around $10 million a year publicizing Affordable Care Act enrollment. In comparison, from now until May 15, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will run a $50 million advertising budget aimed specifically at encouraging Black and Latino communities to explore getting health-care coverage.
By some estimates, 4 million uninsured individuals could qualify for a plan with no premium payment, and 4.9 million more could get subsidies to reduce the cost. This could be their last chance to acquire health insurance for 2021.
As a member of the North Carolina Navigator Consortium, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy navigators are available to provide free, unbiased advice to residents of Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union County. Navigators are federally certified and extensively trained in the insurance plan options offered by the Health Insurance Marketplace, in addition to cost-sharing reductions and premium tax credits eligibility. Navigators can also help with Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Additional assistance is provided to consumers who are disabled, do not speak English or are unfamiliar with health insurance.
The new Special Open Enrollment Period has sparked a few questions for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s health-insurance navigators, and we’ve included their answers below to help make your experience as smooth as possible.
What is the new Special Open Enrollment Period?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration announced a new three-month Special Open Enrollment Period. First-time consumers or individuals who have lost their health coverage can enroll in a plan during this time, and existing consumers can switch plans if they want to.
Is financial assistance still available for the Special Open Enrollment Period?
Yes. If your household income is between 100-400% of the federal poverty level (FPL), you may be eligible for financial assistance that will help to lower the cost of your monthly premiums. In addition, if your household income is below 250% FPL, you may be eligible for financial assistance that will help to lower your out-of-pocket costs if you select a Silver plan. Individuals that are not eligible for Medicaid due to their immigration status may be eligible for financial assistance even if their income is below 100% FPL.
I already have Healthcare.gov coverage. Can I change my plan during the new Special Open Enrollment Period?
Yes, existing consumers can switch plans. The new plan will start the first month after the enrollment is complete.
How can I get ready to enroll in 2021 Marketplace coverage?
If you already have a Healthcare.gov account, make sure you are able to log in. If your household size or income has changed, gather supporting documentation such as tax returns from last year or recent pay stubs. You may be required to provide copies of these documents to the Marketplace.
Will my existing plan price change because of the new Special Open Enrollment Period?
There will be no change to the amount of subsidies you are receiving, so the price of your coverage should stay the same. Still make sure to report any life changes you have during the year to the Marketplace to ensure you are paying the right amount for your coverage.
Free appointments with a local navigator can be made using the statewide appointment hotline at 1-855-733-3711, or online at the NC Navigator Consortium.
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