Minneapolis, MN – As the United States sees COVID-19 cases surge, healthinsurance.org is urging consumers not to wait until the last minute to enroll in an Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plan, citing uncertainty about deadline extensions and the availability of personnel to help with enrollment.
The open enrollment window runs through Jan. 15 in nearly every state, and while a record number of Americans have enrolled already, the final days before the deadline have historically brought a surge in signups. Some may recall the federal government issued last-minute deadline extensions in previous years. But the current open enrollment period in most states is already a month longer than it was for the last few years. There is significant uncertainty right now in terms of the COVID resurgence, but for now, consumers should not count on any additional extensions to the open enrollment period.
“We always see a surge in enrollment in the days leading up to the deadline,” said Louise Norris, a licensed agent and analyst with healthinsurance.org. “But the increase in COVID cases – combined with the Jan. 15 deadline falling on a Saturday – could create challenges for people seeking enrollment assistance from a navigator or a licensed health insurance agent. So for people who haven’t yet secured coverage for 2022, the best approach is to enroll now, instead of waiting until the last minute.”
Subsidies fuel record enrollment
A historic high of more than 13.6 million people have already enrolled in marketplace health insurance coverage for 2022, the federal government said last month. The growth is a tribute to the cost savings made possible by the American Rescue Plan.
“The good news is that consumers are increasingly hearing the message that right now, access to enhanced ACA subsidies has created a great opportunity to find low-cost – and in some cases no-cost – comprehensive coverage,” Norris says. “And the federal government has drastically increased navigator funding to ensure that people have access to enrollment assistance. But the heightened demand combined with the growing number of COVID cases might put more pressure on the professionals who help shoppers enroll.”
State enrollment deadlines vary
While most Americans have until Jan. 15 to enroll in an ACA plan, it’s important to know the enrollment deadline for your state. For example, enrollment has ended in Idaho, and consumers in a few states have until Jan. 31 to enroll.
After open enrollment ends, people can normally only purchase coverage if they have a special enrollment period triggered by a such as: marriage, becoming a U.S. citizen, birth or adoption, involuntary loss of other health coverage or a permanent move.
What is the actual time enrollment ends in your state’s marketplace?
In most exchanges, the enrollment deadline will be at midnight in the time zone where you’re buying a plan. But Norris advises that buyers start their application early – even a day or two early – to avoid last-minute stress that could be compounded by heavy traffic to an exchange.
Consumers who do decide to wait until Saturday, Jan. 15 to make their plan selection may expect that if they enroll late in the day, they’ll have their application processed as long as they’ve begun the enrollment by midnight. But they shouldn’t count on it.
“With past open enrollments, most marketplaces have maintained that an application will be finished as long as the applicant started before the midnight deadline. But definitely check your state’s exchange as this may not be the case with all exchanges,” Norris says.
Find more detailed information about open enrollment in healthinsurance.org’s ACA Open Enrollment 2022 Guide.
Healthinsurance.org is a free online source of consumer health resources, including information about individual health insurance, major medical insurance and affordable medical insurance.
Amy Fletcher Faircloth [email protected]