President Biden has signed an executive order that will create a special enrollment period for the federal health insurance marketplace, offering uninsured people an opportunity to get coverage while a pandemic continues to rage.
A single late-year window for open enrollment in the federal marketplace was one of the cogs of the complicated machinery collectively known as Obamacare. The idea was that people without an employment-related plan can be required to make choices during open enrollment (November and December) that will determine their coverage for the rest of the year, limiting anyone’s ability to game the system.
But the pandemic is an extraordinary circumstance. The spikes in positive test results that have followed Thanksgiving and Christmas traveling, and the threats of new variants of the original virus, have enhanced the anxieties that Biden’s executive order may help alleviate. Further, the unemployment generated by the pandemic creates a vast new pool of uninsured for whom this anxiety is most acute.
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The federal marketplace is used by 36 states, through the website HealthCare.gov. Biden’s order means that marketplace will be open from February 15 through May 15. The President is also directing federal agencies to examine any policies that could reduce the affordability of health coverage