As open enrollment for the health insurance marketplace comes to a close, so does my internship at the NC Council of Churches. In less than two weeks, I will complete my classes and move on to awaiting graduation. Before I take my leave, I want to express what a pleasure it has been to work at the Council, especially in doing outreach for health insurance enrollment, and to share some important information about enrollment in Marketplace health insurance plans during the months before the next open enrollment period begins.
Latest Enrollment Numbers
As of April 1, 2014, HHS reported that 7.1 million people had signed up for private health insurance through the Marketplace. Millions have been covered by state Medicaid expansions and around 3 million young adults under age 26 have received coverage through their parents’ health insurance plans. Data analysis from the Health Reform Opinion Study by the RAND Corporation, which examined changes in health insurance enrollment between September 2013 and March 2014, estimates that the uninsured rate has gone from 20.5 percent to 15.8 percent. This suggests that the Affordable Care Act has had an impact on reducing the numbers of uninsured Americans, but certainly there is still much work to be done.
Special Enrollment Periods
Even though open enrollment has officially ended, and the grace period for those who had started the enrollment process by March 31 will end before May, there are still reasons for individuals to seek health insurance on the Marketplace before the next open enrollment period. These are called Special Enrollment Periods or SEPs. You may be eligible for an SEP if you experience a qualifying event, such as loss of minimum essential coverage; addition of a dependent; loss of dependent status; change in status to become a citizen or lawfully present; a permanent move to another state or another region of the state where different insurance products are offered; loss of eligibility for a hardship exemption; release from jail or prison; or enrollment errors and misrepresentation made by the marketplace or someone acting on their behalf.
Generally, the SEP will last for 60 days from the time of the qualifying event. If you think you may qualify, you can go to healthcare.gov to start an application, contact the Marketplace call center (1-800-318-2596), and call a NC Navigator or CAC enrollment assister.
Navigators will be available during Special Enrollment Period
As of right now, the NC-specific number to reach Navigators will remain in use and will put callers in contact with an in-person assister who can answer questions about eligibility for an SEP. That number is 1-855-733-3711.
In addition to reasons to enroll in health insurance outside of the open enrollment periods, there may also be reasons why you would be exempt from the requirement to have insurance, some permanent, some lasting only as long as a hardship lasts. This chart from Families USA provides an overview of the reasons for getting an exemption, where and when to apply, and how long the exemption would last.
Next Open Enrollment Period
The next open enrollment period for the health insurance Marketplace will start on November 15, 2014 and run until February 15, 2015. Coverage will begin as soon as January 1, 2015. If you are interested, you can sign up for email updates from healthcare.gov which will provide reminders about what you need to do to prepare for the next open enrollment.