En español | Several states that operate their own Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance exchanges launched special open enrollment periods for uninsured individuals amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, which can cause a number of respiratory and other symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
To date, the virus has infected more than 6.6 million Americans, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. An estimated 30 million Americans do not have health insurance.
"It is apparent that many in our state have been exposed to this virus and that health insurance will be critical to those seeking treatment,” Pam MacEwan, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange chief executive officer, said in a statement. Washington was one of the states that has been hit hardest by the virus at the start of the outbreak. Its special enrollment period ended on May 8.
"Individuals need to have peace of mind to take care of all health needs, especially if they are at a high risk,” MacEwan added.
In mid-March, more than 3,700 Maryland residents had signed up for public and private health insurance — about a week after the state opened its special enrollment period due to the coronavirus. Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, tells AARP, “Something such as COVID-19 really brings to light the need for health insurance.”
"Even though someone may be young and healthy and not ever envision getting sick, this really brings home that you just don't know,” Eberle says, adding that hospital bills for those who get really sick from COVID-19 could be significant. After enrolling more than 54,000 residents in health insurance between March 16 and July 15, Maryland announced in early August that it is reopening its coronavirus emergency special enrollment period until Dec. 15.
“The people of our great state have endured so many personal, medical, and economic challenges, and this crisis is not yet behind us,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a press statement. “Reopening the special enrollment period is another way we are helping Marylanders weather this storm, get back on their feet, and recover.”
An analysis from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation found that the cost of treatment for severe cases of COVID-19 could top $20,000.
The federal government, which runs the marketplaces for the majority of states on HealthCare.gov, is not currently offering a special open enrollment due to the spread of the coronavirus. In mid-March AARP sent a letter to Congress asking for a nationwide special open enrollment period, and some lawmakers urged the administration to enact one. A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said the agency is evaluating the idea, but in the meantime is encouraging consumers without coverage to see if they qualify for other special enrollment periods due to a life-changing event, such as loss of a job.
Here are the deadlines for each state's special open enrollment period; those that have already ended are no longer listed. Details vary by state:
- District of Columbia: Enrollment is open through Jan. 31.
- Maryland: Enrollment is open through Dec. 15.
- New York: Enrollment is open through Dec. 31
In Washington, individuals who have lost health insurance coverage after March 1, 2020 have until Sept. 30, 2020 to sign up for coverage through the state’s exchanges.