Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

Though the move is targeted to help people affected by lay-offs have insurance, it also opens the doors for anyone without comprehensive insurance.

States in charge of their own healthcare exchanges have enacted a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act to combat coronavirus, putting pressure on the federal government to follow suit despite White House opposition to the law. 

Though the move is targeted to help people affected by lay-offs obtain insurance, it also opens the doors for anyone without comprehensive coverage to simply sign up for a health plan, despite the official sign-up deadline passing Dec. 15. The special enrollment period helps ensure people don’t avoid testing for coronavirus or Covid-19 because they don’t have health insurance and could protect millions from expensive medical bills if they do contract the virus.

“There’s no economic or public health rationale to not open the doors wide in the face of the pandemic,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, that state’s marketplace, told the New York Times.

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Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington join California in opening up enrollment, upping the ante on the federal government to do the same for the 32 state markets it controls, and the six states whose exchanges are run on its platform. The Trump administration is now mulling a special enrollment period, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Saturday.

“CMS is evaluating offering a Special Enrollment Period specifically designated for Covid-19,” the spokeswoman said. “We will continue to work with states and health plans around the country to assess what additional actions are necessary to ensure the American people have coverage for and access to the services they need during this time.”

The Trump administration has supported litigation to dismantle law, including a case brought by Republican-led states to the Supreme Court. 

The special enrollment period could expose insurers to financial risk. Insurers calculate how much to charge for coverage based on a set number of people, so a wave of new enrollees could result in them paying more in coverage than budgeted. However, some states are enacting limitations to offset the risk, such as Nevada blocking people with a history of nonpayment from signing up.