CMS extends open registration period and launches initiatives to expand health coverage

Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images

In an effort to expand health care coverage and access, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are extending regular open enrollment by 30 days, which will now run from November 1 to January 15, 2022, giving consumers more time to review and choose health plans.

The old registration period was from November 1 to December 15.

CMS is also expanding the services provided by federally-facilitated Marketplace Navigators – experts who help consumers, especially those in underserved communities, understand their benefits and rights, review options, and sign up for market coverage.

Finally, the agency announced the relaunch of its “Champions for Coverage” program. The program currently includes more than 1,000 local organizations active in raising awareness and educating about the health insurance market and how consumers can enroll for coverage through HealthCare.gov, Medicaid or the HealthCare.gov program. children’s health insurance (CHIP).

WHAT IS THE IMPACT

CMS’s stated goal in initiating these steps is to make it easier for consumers to purchase affordable health coverage and reduce health disparities in various communities nationwide.

In an effort to help reduce these disparities, Payment Advice Final Rule 2022 expands Navigator services. FFM Navigators will now provide consumers with information and assistance on certain post-registration topics, such as the market eligibility appeal process and market-related components of the Premium Tax Credits Reconciliation .

CMS will also adopt what it calls modest increases in market issuance fee rates, with the aim of improving awareness and engagement. All 2022 market user fee rates remain lower than in 2021, which the agency says will keep premiums low. On top of that, four times as many browsers – 1,500 in total – will be available to consumers using HealthCare.gov for plan year 2022 thanks to an $ 80 million grant provided earlier this year by CMS.

The agency intends to link this work to the Champions for Coverage program, a community initiative to raise awareness of open enrollment with educational resources and “event in a box” material.

CMS also established a new monthly special registration period targeting certain low-income people in the markets through HealthCare.gov. This, CMS said, gives most eligible consumers one or more options to sign up for free or very low-cost plans due to the provisions of the US bailout.

The provisions also provide for flexibilities for state partners. For example, state markets with their own eligibility and listing platforms will be able to set their own annual end dates for the open listing period, as long as those dates are on or after December 15. .

THE BIGGEST TREND

According to CMS data, around 8.3 million people have selected individual market plans through the marketplaces using the federal platform during the 2021 open registration period.

This total number of registrations is almost the same as the registrations during the open registration period of 2020, despite the fact that New Jersey and Pennsylvania have moved to state-based exchange platforms from of the 2021 open registration period.

After removing these states from the total package selections during the open enrollment period of 2020 and comparing the year-over-year trends, the results show that package selections this year have increased by 7%. compared to 2020, despite a decrease in the number of new consumers. Additionally, for the fourth year in a row, customer satisfaction ratings at the call center remained high – averaging over 90% – throughout the journey.

The data indicates that enrollment has remained stable, and thanks to investments made in recent years to improve stability and experience on the HealthCare.gov platform, more consumers have been able to actively enroll or re-enroll in the. coverage this year without the need for waiting rooms, says CMS.

ON THE RECORD

“Health care is a basic human right and the Biden-Harris administration is committed to making health coverage more accessible than ever,” said CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “With the Affordable Care Act and the American Rescue Plan, the president has brought affordable health coverage to millions of people – many of whom now have insurance for the first time. Today’s action to extend the one-month open enrollment period, to continue our investment in local healthcare browsers, and to establish a special enrollment period for many low-income people once again demonstrates our commitment to connect families on the cover. “

Twitter: @JELagasse
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