Hospital groups applauded the Biden administration for its announcement Jan. 28 that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces would reopen for prospective enrollees from Feb. 15 through May 15.
The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) came in response to an executive order signed by President Joe Biden, who had pledged to expand access to insurance coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The special enrollment period (SEP) applies to the consumers in the 36 states served by marketplaces that use the Healthcare.gov platform. The remaining states, which have their own platforms, are encouraged to take similar steps, an HHS announcement stated.
Hospital advocacy groups said the executive order addresses a pressing need.
“Every American deserves access to health coverage, yet millions remain uninsured,” American Hospital Association (AHA) President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement. “We simply need to do better in addressing this basic human need, particularly during a global pandemic.”
The executive order more generally directs agencies to “reconsider rules and other policies that limit Americans’ access” to healthcare, including by examining policies that “make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA.”
“Removing roadblocks impeding Medicaid enrollment and bolstering the ACA will provide millions of our most vulnerable access to lifesaving health coverage,” Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) President and CEO Chip Kahn said in a statement.
Promotional outreach will be emphasized
HHS said it will spend $50 million on an outreach campaign to promote the SEP to consumers. The Get Covered 2021 Coalition, which includes the AHA, FAH and various other industry groups and state healthcare associations, said that part of the effort is vital.
The Trump administration, which opposed the ACA, reduced the budget for promoting the annual enrollment period from $100 million to $10 million starting with the 2019 coverage year.
A release issued by Get Covered 2021 noted that in the 36 states with federally facilitated ACA marketplaces, 6.8 million people are uninsured but eligible for financial assistance in the marketplaces. Getting the word out to that population is crucial, according to the coalition.