Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance marketplaces has begun, and most consumers have until Dec. 15 to choose the plans that will best meet their medical needs.
The open enrollment for coverage beginning in 2021 is happening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and also as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments Nov. 10 in a lawsuit that could decide the future of the health care law.
"Sign up now if you need coverage for next year and we'll see what happens later,” says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Pollitz says many consumers are confused about whether the law is still in force, which it is. The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ACA was initially brought by Texas and includes 19 other states and two individuals. AARP joined 17 states and many advocacy organizations in arguing that the law is constitutional.
"We did a survey this spring and only 1 in 5 even knew that the ACA is still law,” Pollitz says. “I think people remain confused.” Even though the high court will hear arguments in the case Nov. 10, it will likely be sometime next year before the justices issue a decision.
In the meantime, a Kaiser Family Foundation report estimated that 27 million Americans could lose their work-related health insurance this year because of pandemic-related job losses.
"The ACA offers a really important safety net,” Pollitz says. “There really is affordable coverage for people, they just have to find out about it.” More than 11 million Americans currently get their health insurance through the federal and state marketplaces.
Though open enrollment ends Dec. 15 for consumers who get their coverage through the federal marketplace, 10 states and the District of Columbia have set later deadlines for when people can either make changes to their existing plans or sign up for the first time through state marketplaces:
- Minnesota, Dec. 22
- Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington, Jan. 15
- Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Jan. 23
- California, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., Jan. 31