Eleven States Now Letting Uninsured Sign Up for Obamacare

In Healthcare On
- Updated

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow laid-off workers to get subsidized health insurance, and the Trump administration, which has been gunning to repeal the law, is considering opening the federal exchange to new customers.

The new enrollment periods will ease insurance sign-ups for people who have recently lost health coverage along with their jobs. And they will provide an opportunity for people who didn’t buy insurance for the year to reconsider that choice.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington are the states that run their own exchanges that have made the move to open enrollment.

In California, state officials had already extended the normal enrollment window because of changes in state policy. But Peter Lee, the executive director of that state’s marketplace, Covered California, said he was doing everything he could to alert residents that they could buy insurance if they needed it now.

“There’s no economic or public health rationale to not open the doors wide in the face of the pandemic,” he said.

Rhode Island officials also chose to create a special enrollment period to prevent people from hesitating to get testing or treatment if they were uninsured, said Lindsay Lang, the director of the state’s marketplace, HealthSource RI.

“We don’t know how big this will be in Rhode Island,” she said. The hope, she said, is to protect individuals and the state’s health system from large sums of uncompensated care as they wait for federal officials to take action, adding, “This is what we can do while we wait.”

The Affordable Care Act was set up with a short annual window for insurance sign-ups. That was meant to encourage Americans to buy coverage while they were still healthy, keeping down premiums. Under the Affordable Care Act, people who lose insurance coverage when they lose their job are already allowed to buy their own insurance. But the creation of a broad special enrollment period would mean that anyone without comprehensive insurance could simply sign up for a health plan, without having to prove such special conditions. Early reports from states suggest that a recent wave of layoffs will leave millions of Americans in need of new health coverage.

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