The New York State Department of Health has announced a special enrollment period in response to the spread of COVID-19. That means if you are uninsured, you have special permission to buy health insurance through the NY State of Health Marketplace (https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/). This special enrollment period ends April 15 – so don’t wait!
What does this mean? Open enrollment periods exist to discourage people from waiting until they know they have big bills coming to buy insurance. If everyone did that, health insurance would quickly become unaffordable to almost everyone. During open enrollment, people have to decide – can I afford health insurance? And does it make sense to me to buy health insurance given my usual health expenses? Some people gamble that they won’t have any serious health problems during the year and chose not to enroll. But once open enrollment ends, those people cannot decide to buy insurance if say, they need an x-ray or were exposed to COVID-19 at work. There are always special enrollment periods for big life changes – for example, becoming pregnant or losing a job.
Open enrollment for 2020 ended on February 7 in New York. Two months later, during a public health emergency, there may be some uninsured people who feel differently about their decision. This announcement means you can turn back the clock and get insurance! Are you worried about costs? Navigators and other assistors are working throughout the emergency to help you! For enrollment questions, dial 1-888-614-5400 and choose option 1, and then 1 again.
Other things to remember:
- Any plan you enroll in through the State, including a private plan you buy through the NY State of Health, is required to cover COVID-19 testing without cost-sharing.
- You can enroll in Medicaid, the Essential Plan, or Child Health Plus at any time of the year based on your income. Enrollment uses the same NY State of Health application that you fill out to buy health insurance.
- If you have lost your job or experienced a decline in pay, talk to an assistor about it. You might be eligible for premium subsidies or programs that you weren’t eligible for during open enrollment.
This is a fluid and scary situation. Obtaining health insurance is one step New Yorkers can take to prepare for the next few weeks.