More Californians and Nevadans Getting Health Coverage

With an expansion of health insurance subsidies included in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021, more Americans are now insured than before COVID-19.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that as of April 30, 2021, nearly one million people nationwide had enrolled in a or a state exchange plan during the 2021 special enrollment period. Even before its scheduled end in August, Modern Healthcare reported enrollment exceeding 2.5 million nationwide since February.

As far as enrollment both inside and outside of the special enrollment period, Health Affairs reported in April that 2021 nationwide enrollment topped 12 million in the Marketplaces. The publication attributed the increase – of about five percent over last year – underscores the importance of a health care safety net during the COVID-19 pandemic. That percentage is likely to be larger, as numbers have continued to climb in the past four months.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in February the special enrollment for 36 states using the platform, as well as 13 states and the District of Columbia that operate their own Marketplace platforms. The original special enrollment deadline was May 15; however, after passage of the ARP, the deadline to apply was extended to mid-August.

The new and expanded financial assistance offered through the ARP led to a record 1.6 million people enrolled in the California public exchange for 2021, although final enrollment numbers are yet to be disclosed. Nevada Health Link said in July that more than 11,000 Nevadans had enrolled through that point during Nevada’s special enrollment period.

Open enrollment for the nation’s public exchanges for the 2022 calendar year is slated to begin November 1, 2021, and continue through January 15, 2022. (In California, enrollment goes through January 31, 2022.) Premium subsidies funded through the ARP will, again, help more Californians and Nevadans get the health coverage they need.

Covered California says ARP funding has already lowered premiums for an estimated 1.5 million Californians. The ARP has reduced the average premium cost by 50 percent for many California households eligible for financial assistance, including newly eligible middle-income families.

For 2022, preliminary premium numbers for Covered California show participating insurers in the individual market on the public exchange are averaging a low 1.8 percent rate increase. The relatively low change is tied to Covered California’s strong and healthy enrollment, which has grown significantly in 2021. Participation is at the highest level in the public exchange’s history.

On the group side, carriers and administrators are reporting enrollment increases for some market segments. California’s private health exchange, CaliforniaChoice, has experienced both group and membership increases in 2021 (“members” include higher employee and dependent enrollment).

Brokers are also both reporting higher interest among employers and employees for Worksite Voluntary benefits. That’s due, at least in part, to COVID-19 and shifting views concerning what’s important to consumers.

A Benefits Pro article earlier this year that spotlighted Aon data noted double-digit growth for Voluntary products. Employer offerings were up 27% as compared to the prior enrollment period. The greatest increase was for Accident (up 50%) and Hospital Indemnity (up 35%), although Legal and ID Theft coverage and Pet Insurance were each up around 30%. For more information, read our post Worksite Benefits: Increase Client Offerings – and Earn More.


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