During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are facing many hurdles: a healthcare crisis, a struggling economy, social isolation, remote learning, working from home, and many other challenges. To help flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus, most states have issued a stay at home order, resulting in many non-essential businesses having to close. Since some businesses were unable to continue operations, they had to make the difficult decision to lay off employees. Many of these individuals who lost their jobs also lost their health insurance that came with it.
Americans are now not only worried about being exposed to the virus but also how they will pay for their treatment with no health coverage if they were to become infected. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost to an uninsured patient that is hospitalized with severe symptoms of COVID-19 could exceed $40,000. To help reduce the risk of excessive medical costs, several states have established a special open enrollment period to make the process of enrolling in health coverage easier with fewer restrictions. Currently, under the ACA guidelines, an individual who has a life event, such as loss of employment, can enroll in health coverage in the federal marketplace within 60 days of losing his/her job. However, with the expansion of the state’s own ACA healthcare special open enrollment periods, an individual can enroll without having to prove special conditions, such of loss of employment or other “qualifying life events” which would allow an individual to enroll in health insurance outside of the open enrollment period.
There are 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have their own state-run marketplaces and have been able to establish a special open enrollment period These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. Other states, that use the federal government health insurance marketplace, www.healthcare.gov, have not offered an extended open enrollment period to Americans who may have been without insurance or lost their insurance. Two major national associations, America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, have sent a letter to Congress asking the Federal Government to consider a special enrollment period to help alleviate the worries of both the hospitals and individuals so that those being admitted will have adequate health coverage during these uncertain times. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there were approximately 28 million uninsured Americans before the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the model published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, it is estimated that between 2%-7% of the uninsured will require hospitalization. While the states that established special open enrollment periods to help the uninsured is an option for individuals residing in these areas, those who are uninsured in other regions of the United States need to look into possible affordable options for health insurance to avoid the possibility of facing large medical bills.