By Jim Manley, on December 6, 2020
With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act underway through Dec. 15 for many Americans and Jan. 23 for Bay Staters, millions of consumers are shopping for health insurance plans for 2021. Like so many events amid the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s open enrollment period is going to look a lot different than ever before.
An estimated 5.4 million American workers have lost their health insurance since the start of the pandemic due to job loss, and many of these newly uninsured will be looking at their options on the ACA exchange for the first time. Workers in Massachusetts have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Between February and May 2020, approximately 159,000 workers in Massachusetts became uninsured due to job losses, which was the highest proportional increase (93%) anywhere in the United States. Historically, Massachusetts had one of the lowest rates of those without insurance (4%) in the country, though it has since doubled to 8%.
In light of the pandemic, Bay Staters and consumers across the country must understand their options for coverage, as well as what to look for in a new plan. If they have lost their employer-sponsored insurance, consumers have several options for securing health care coverage. Families should always check to see whether they qualify for Medicaid or MassHealth. For families with children, the Children’s Health Insurance Program is a critical tool to ensure their youngest family members get a healthy start.
And when selecting a new health plan on the marketplace, it is vital that consumers be aware of the pitfalls that lurk with some insurance plans. These dangers include surprise medical bills, barebones short-term, limited-duration health insurance (STLDI) plans and changes to the way some insurers treat cost-sharing coupons for prescriptions.