Temporary Medicaid ending; special marketplace enrollment period ends Aug. 15; premium-free COBRA ends in September

Families USA graphic; for a larger version, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Kentuckians have about two more months to buy reduced-cost health insurance on the federal marketplace under the special enrollment period. The deadline to sign up on healthcare.gov is Aug. 15.
The Biden administration reopened the marketplace in mid-February under the American Rescue Plan Act, for people who needed coverage during the pandemic, and later extended the deadline to Aug. 15.
The special enrollment is open to both new and existing customers, including the thousands of Kentuckians who qualified for temporary Medicaid coverage during the pandemic through the state’s “presumptive eligibility” program. The PE program will end for some of them on June 30.
“Kentuckians who will be losing their PE coverage at the end of this month, should contact a kynector to learn more about regular Medicaid and Marketplace options,” Kentucky Voices for Health said June 15.
KVH said Kentuckians who have been enrolled in PE coverage since January will be disenrolled on June 30. Those who enrolled after January may have a different end of coverage date.
The special enrollment period includes provisions that make the plans more affordable, including enhanced premium subsidies, also known as tax credits, to help offset the cost of insurance. It also makes more people eligible for the subsidies, limits costs to no more than 8.5% of income, down from nearly 10%, and eliminates repayments that may be required when people reconcile their tax return with the tax credit they received.
“Four of five enrollees will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month after premium tax credits, and over half will be able to find a Silver plan with a zero-dollar premium,” Carrie Banahan, deputy secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in a news release.Silver plans have the the second-lowest costs and are the benchmarks used to calculate the tax credits. They are the most common choice of marketplace shoppers, said Banahan.

State officials said premiums will decrease on average by $50 per person per month, or by $85 per policy per month, although the savings will vary per individual.
Through the end of May, just over 10,000 Kentuckians signed up for health insurance during the special enrollment period, according to a federal report.
That’s an increase in enrollment from the same period in 2020 and 2019, when 5,550 and 5,789 signed up, respectively. Open enrollment is usually in effect only six weeks at the end of a year, except for those who experience a “qualifying life event,” like getting married or losing a job.
Nationwide, more than 1.2 million people have signed up.
New premium-free COBRA options until September
If you had health insurance through your job until you lost hours or lost employment, you and your family may qualify for health coverage through premium-free COBRA (which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, which instituted the provision).
The American Rescue Plan also requires the federal government to pay 100% of COBRA insurance premiums for eligible employees who lose their jobs (and for their covered relatives) through September, allowing them to stay on their company-sponsored health plans.

Families USA offers a fact sheet that answers a variety of questions about eligibility, enrollment process and other topics. It also features a list of local, state and national resources.

Families USA also warns consumers that COBRA is only available through their former employer or health plan, and not through a website.

President Biden has proposed in his American Families Plan to make some of these pandemic changes permanent, including the premium tax credits, expanded coverage to those who earn 400% and above the federal poverty level, and the 8.5% household income cap on the monthly amount a person would pay for their policy.
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