BATON ROUGE, La. – The federal government is reopening healthcare.gov for a Special Enrollment Period starting today through May 15. During this time, you can sign up for an individual health insurance plan and learn if you qualify for financial assistance to help you pay for it.
This Special Enrollment Period is open to anyone who doesn’t get health insurance through a job and wants to get covered. According to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Healthcare Economist Mike Bertaut, data on uninsured Louisianians shows tens of thousands of them could qualify to buy a Blue Cross bronze plan on healthcare.gov for $0 premiums per month.
Usually, healthcare.gov enrollment takes place in the fall for plan coverage that begins Jan. 1 of the following year. Outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period, you can only sign up for a plan if you have a major life event that affects your healthcare coverage. This includes events like changes to your marital status and family size, or if you become unemployed. But, the Special Enrollment Period from Feb. 15-May 15 does not have any requirements to sign up and shop for plans.
“This is a rare opportunity to get covered, and I’d encourage you to take advantage of it,” Bertaut said. “Nearly 300,000 Louisianians were unemployed at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, that meant losing their job-based health insurance. And, there are about 400,000 people in our state who don’t have any form of insurance right now.”
“The only way to know for sure what’s available to you and what financial assistance you can get is to apply at www.healthcare.gov,” Bertaut added. “Most people currently on healthcare.gov plans are getting federal help to pay for them. You have several options, so head to healthcare.gov and shop around.”
To create a www.healthcare.gov account, you’ll need to enter basic information like:
Social Security number
The site will ask you to estimate your income for 2021. You’ll have to answer questions about whether or not you’ve used tobacco. The site will not ask you to enter any health history information or details about current health conditions you have. Using the information on your income and tobacco use, healthcare.gov will let you know if you qualify for financial assistance to help you pay for your health plan.
“Two-thirds of Louisiana households earn incomes that would qualify them for federal assistance to help pay for their health plans,” Bertaut said. “That could make your coverage much more affordable than you probably expect.”
Based on your income information, healthcare.gov will alert you if you’re eligible for Louisiana’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is no-cost healthcare coverage, with no deductibles or copays. You can also visit www.medicaid.la.gov to see if you qualify.
People turning 65 and those 65 or older who lost employer coverage through job loss or retirement may be able to sign up for Medicare plans. Circumstances like moving to another state or moving into or out of a long-term care facility can trigger Medicare Special Enrollment Periods, too. Visit www.medicare.gov for more information.
“The Covid-19 pandemic, along with the five named storms that struck Louisiana during the 2020 hurricane season, left many without health insurance,” Bertaut said. “This enrollment period is a rare, affordable opportunity to help you get the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have healthcare coverage to protect you if you get really ill, are injured or need care,” Bertaut said.
Need help checking into your options? Visit www.GetPlanOptions.com or call 1-844-GET-BLUE to speak with a Blue Cross agent. Licensed agents can guide you through the different plan types available and what could best fit your needs and budget. It doesn’t cost you anything to work with an agent. There is no obligation to enroll in a health plan because you talked to an agent.
Bertaut recently wrote a post for Straight Talk, Blue Cross’ multimedia blog, about the Special Enrollment Period and how to find affordable healthcare plans. For more information about healthcare topics, visit www.straighttalkla.com. The Straight Talk blog is typically updated weekly. The site includes a link to sign up for the Straight Talk e-newsletter.
Hometown Productions issued a video news release (9:01) with Bertaut discussing the Special Enrollment Period.
You can visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short videos on various health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can also connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates.