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2021 Special Health Care Insurance Enrollment Period Amid the Pandemic

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Al: This is Al Waller, your host for ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health and Wealth. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27.5 million Americans are currently without health insurance. This is especially alarming as we continue to fight COVID-19. The good news is that if you have not enrolled yet, there is now a special three-month enrollment period for you to get health coverage. Joining me is Mihaela Vincze, public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute, here to tell us more about the re-opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace. Al: Thanks for joining me. Mihaela: Thank you for having me.

Al: So, this special three-month enrollment period has been activated for Americans to get health coverage— when exactly is this happening? Mihaela: You can enroll from February 15 through May 15, 2021. During this period, you can enroll, re-enroll, or change your health plan. Just remember, if your state has its own marketplace, also known as “exchange”, then be sure to check the state-run website as deadlines may vary. For Maryland, the deadline to enroll is May 15.

Al: Noted— and repeating, the special enrollment period ends on May 15, 2021! So, for those who are interested in signing up, how are they able to do this? Mihaela: You can apply for a health insurance plan over the phone, in-person, or online. The HealthCare.gov website has features to walk you through the application process and answer any questions you may have. Some states, including Maryland, have their own exchange. In these states, you will use your state-run website to enroll in health coverage. In Maryland, visit www.marylandhealthconnection.gov.

Al: Great. What if someone needs help selecting a health plan? Mihaela: Good question. There are different choices and levels of coverage available. To understand what best meets your needs, consider consulting with a trained advisor. You could do this by setting up an appointment with a navigator in your area, which you can locate by selecting the “Find Local Help” tool on your Marketplace application. They will be able to help you sort through options and figure out which one will best meet your needs.

Al: That sounds like a great resource to help navigate the process. For those who are wondering— why has this special enrollment period been activated?

Mihaela: We all know that COVID-19 has introduced unprecedented, public health challenges – and high rates of unemployment and people losing their employer-sponsored health benefits. This extra time to enroll in health coverage has been made possible so that we can meet the health care needs created by the pandemic.

Al: That makes sense. Is there any way to make the process of applying easier and perhaps quicker?

Mihaela: Yes—you may want to gather some information before you start your application. This includes your social security number, employer information, income, and citizenship documents. You will also need this information for everyone applying for coverage on your application.

Al: Gathering those documents ahead of time is a good idea! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with the public?

Mihaela: Yes—once you’re enrolled in a health plan, you’ll receive a packet in the mail with your new insurance card and information about your health plan. It is important that you review this so that you know what is covered and what is not, so you can prevent surprises from arising.

Al: Thank you again for joining us, Mihaela.

Mihaela: Thank you for having me. Al: This has been another episode of ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. I’m your host Al Waller – thanks for listening.

Clearpath is produced in partnership with WYPR.

Al Waller is a long time native of the Baltimore area. He entered the field of Human Resources Management starting as an HR Generalist with PwC (Pricewaterhouse-Coopers). This marked the beginning of a 30 year career that advanced into the management level for locally and globally based corporations. His primary area of expertise has focused on but not limited to: Talent Acquisition /Retention, Employee Relations as well as Training & Development.
Mihaela is a public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute