Biden pitches new plans for boosting ACA enrollment


June 28, 2021 11:46 am

The Biden administration is looking to extend Obamacare’s annual enrollment season and allow some of the poorest marketplace customers to buy coverage essentially whenever they want, under a new proposal aimed at bolstering the health care law.

CMS on Monday also proposed rolling back Trump-era rules that Democrats argued would have undermined the marketplaces.

Longer enrollment window: CMS said it wants to lengthen the open enrollment season by 30 days starting this fall. For the last few years, the annual enrollment season has run between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15, and CMS plans to extend the deadline to Jan. 15.

However, the agency plans to eliminate the strict sign-up window for Americans who earn under 150 percent of the federal poverty level. These shoppers, who receive generous premium subsidies, would be allowed to sign up each month.

CMS said the policy could help those who lose their Medicaid coverage at the end of the coronavirus public health emergency, when states are again allowed to remove people from the safety net program.

More reversals: CMS is proposing to pull back a Trump-era policy, approved in the previous administration’s final days, that would have allowed states to eliminate their marketplaces and turn enrollment entirely over to private web brokers and agents.

No state had announced plans to ditch their Obamacare markets, and CMS under President Joe Biden was widely expected to roll back the policy. Trump’s CMS last fall separately approved a decentralized enrollment system for Georgia through an Obamacare waiver program, but CMS has signaled it’s likely to revoke that permission.

The Biden administration is also proposing to rescind a Trump policy that relaxed many of Obamacare’s strict guardrails for approving states’ marketplace changes through the Obamacare waiver program. And CMS will roll back another Trump policy requiring insurers to send a separate monthly bill to cover abortion-related services.

Bigger role for navigators: The agency is proposing to hike insurers’ user fees by a half-percentage point to fund expanded responsibilities for groups helping enroll people in plans. These so-called navigators, who will receive a record $80 million in the 2022 enrollment season, will be required to give consumers more information about health coverage and their rights.