Roughly 487,000 people signed up for an Affordable Care Act exchange plan after losing other health coverage since the last open enrollment period ended in December, CMS said Thursday. That’s about 46% higher than sign-ups during the same period last year.
Sign-ups through a special enrollment period for people who lost minimum essential coverage rose sharply during April and remained high in May, suggesting that the enrollments were related to job losses due the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the magnitude may be unclear, job losses due to COVID-19 have led to increased enrollments on HealthCare.gov,” CMS said in its report.
People who lose job-based minimum essential health coverage or experience another life event, such as getting married or moving to a new zip code, qualify for a special enrollment period in which they can choose a HealthCare.gov plan outside of the normal sign-up period.
The COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn that have left 20 million people unemployed was expected to result in a large number of people losing health insurance. One analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation projected that millions of those newly uninsured would likely qualify for subsidized exchange coverage or Medicaid.
According to CMS, 154,000 people chose a plan through a loss of coverage special enrollment period in April, up 140% compared with April 2019, when 64,000 signed up. The trend continued into May, when 103,000 people signed up, an increase of about 43% over the same month the year before.
Health insurers, providers and consumer advocacy groups have urged the Trump administration to open a national special enrollment period during the COVID-19 public health emergency to offer coverage to anybody who needs it. Most states that run their own health insurance exchanges have done so. In California, 175,000 have signed up for an exchange plan during the state’s COVID special enrollment period, which has been extended through July. More than 43,000 signed up during Maryland’s special enrollment period, which was also extended.
The Trump administration has refused to heed those requests. CMS on Thursday said the new data shows that people who lost their jobs or experienced other qualifying events are taking advantage of existing special enrollment periods to enroll in HealthCare.gov coverage.
It noted that Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that many job losses during the pandemic have been temporary layoffs among people who may be able to keep their job-based coverage.
The data shows that special enrollment period sign-ups for reasons other than losing health coverage were also higher than in previous years. About 405,000 people enrolled for other qualifying reasons this year, compared with almost 371,000 in 2019.
In total, a little more than 892,000 people have enrolled in HealthCare.gov plans from mid-December through May for any reason that triggers a special enrollment period. That compares with 704,106 sign-ups in 2019.
During the normal open enrollment period for 2020 coverage, which lasted from Nov. 1, 2019 to Dec. 15, 11.4 million people enrolled in an exchange plan through HealthCare.gov and state-based exchanges.