Responding to the ongoing pandemic, the federal government has opened a special enrollment period (SEP) in the insurance marketplaces. This enrollment opportunity will run from Feb. 15聽to May 15聽in the 36 states that use the enrollment platform (most of the remaining states have already announced that they, too, will open a new 2021 special enrollment period).

During the SEP, you can enroll in coverage if you were previously uninsured; you can change your health plan; and you can switch from off-exchange to on-exchange coverage. If you are shopping for coverage during the SEP, review your options and all plan provisions carefully. Remember that you may be eligible for assistance with your premiums and/or copays. Most people who buy their insurance on the ACA marketplaces qualify for tax credits to help them with their monthly costs!

  • Remember, if you or your child(ren) are eligible for CHIP or Medicaid, you can enroll for health care coverage at any time. You can also apply for Marketplace coverage anytime you experience a qualifying life event (job loss, marriage, birth of a child, etc.), whether or not that event occurs within the new SEP window.

You can find additional resources on how to choose a health plan on the HFA website.

Quick hits:

  • ACA litigation. On Feb. 10, the Biden Administration advised the Supreme Court that the U.S. Department of Justice is switching its position in California v. Texas, the high-stakes lawsuit over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The Biden Administration now sides with the parties defending the law in court. In separate ACA-related litigation, the federal government asked courts to pause cases over the validity of Trump Administration rules (i) expanding non-ACA compliant 鈥association health plans鈥 and (ii) rolling back the ACA鈥檚 nondiscrimination protections, so the Administration can re-evaluate its stance in those cases.
  • Medicaid work reporting requirements. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started the process of rescinding 鈥1115 waivers,鈥 approved by the previous Administration, that allowed states to cut off Medicaid benefits for adults who don鈥檛 meet work reporting requirements. On Feb. 12, CMS sent letters to the states that had obtained such waivers, telling those states that work reporting requirements do not promote the objectives of the Medicaid program. CMS also withdrew procedures, announced in the final days of the Trump Administration, that were designed to cement the work reporting requirements in place. Consistent with this change in policy, the Biden Administration asked the Supreme Court to cancel a scheduled March hearing in a case concerning Arkansas鈥 and New Hampshire鈥檚 work reporting programs. On Feb. 25, HFA joined with 14 other advocacy groups to file an amicus curiae brief in that case, urging the Court to protect access to health coverage.
  • COVID relief legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass President Biden鈥檚 $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan along party lines. The House version of the bill would enhance premium support for the purchase of ACA health insurance; subsidize COBRA premiums; boost federal funding for states that expand their Medicaid programs to cover all low-income adults; hike the minimum wage; extend unemployment insurance benefits; and much more. The bill鈥檚 progress through the Senate, however, will be complicated by parliamentary rules governing the use of the 鈥budget reconciliation鈥 process, which Democrats are invoking in the hopes of passing the legislation by simple majority vote. The Parliamentarian has already ruled, for example, that the minimum wage provision can鈥檛 pass via reconciliation.
  • Still more litigation news! A federal trial court dismissed a case filed by hospitals and pharmacies against drug manufacturers who withhold 340B discounts from contract pharmacies. Separately, the Supreme Court agreed on Feb. 22聽to hear a challenge to the Trump Administration鈥檚 鈥減ublic charge鈥 rule, which allows the federal government to count legal immigrants鈥 use of public benefits (including Medicaid) as a negative factor when they apply for permanent U.S. residency, or seek to enter/re-enter the country. Some observers expect the Administration to withdraw the public charge rule before the case works its way through the Court, mooting the issue.
  • Federal health nominees. The Senate began hearings on various Biden Administration nominees for health agency offices: Xavier Becerra, nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services; Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, nominated to head CMS; Vivek Murthy, nominated to serve as Surgeon General (a role he filled in the Obama Administration); and Rachel Levine, nominated to serve as HHS Assistant Secretary.


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