For more than 10 years, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been an important health insurance option for many Americans, and the coronavirus pandemic has magnified the peace of mind that a trustworthy and affordable plan provides. Many adults have lost their jobs, and with that, their health insurance, due to the widespread impacts COVID-19 has had on the economy and the workforce.
The ACA is still fully in effect, and while the annual enrollment period usually falls between November 1 and December 15, 2020, this past year has demonstrated that a global pandemic can truly change everything. Faced with a rising rate of unemployment, and subsequently the loss of health coverage, the Biden Administration chose to create a special enrollment period for the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace that ends August 15. This enrollment window is the last time Americans can choose a health care plan on the Marketplace until the annual enrollment period begins again in November.
Marketplace plans are the only plans that qualify for government-sponsored funds that help make coverage affordable. Premiums vary by state, region and insurer for reasons including the number and relative market power of insurers or hospitals in an area.
In the past purchasing coverage through the Marketplace could have been expensive, however facing a global pandemic, record unemployment and unknown future costs for COVID-19 treatments, health insurers selling ACA plans to individuals reacted by lowering rates in some areas and, overall, issuing only modest premium increases.
In fact, this year and next, if consumers seek to enroll in a Marketplace plan – either through the federal healthcare.gov or a state-run exchange — they will not have to pay more than 8.5 percent of their annual income for any health insurance premiums. More Americans are eligible for assistance this year than ever before, and if you applied and received any unemployment benefits in 2021, there might be more discounts available to you beginning this month.
Many consumers may be faced with questions as they consider their health care coverage options. While it’s important to look at premiums, consumers also need to check which doctors are in-network. Even if a plan did not include a doctor previously, it is important to check again for 2021. Policies are routinely updated and changed, meaning more doctors are added as in-network providers all the time. Learning about the available options is critically important when evaluating possible coverage selections.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost one million Americans have signed up for health insurance through healthcare.gov as a result of the special enrollment period. If the pandemic has affected your health insurance plan, you need to make an ACA marketplace special election before the window closes on Sunday, August 15.
For more information, please visit healthcare.gov.