The Biden administration reopened enrollment for the Affordable Care Act this week. But enrollment details aren't the same everywhere.
Most states are part of the federal health insurance exchange through the ACA. That means most uninsured people can now sign up on HealthCare.gov through May 15.
But some Mountain West states have their own exchanges, and their own ways to sign up.
For example, Idaho's exchange doesn't reopen until March 1 and ends March 31, by far the shortest enrollment period in the region.
"As we get through this enrollment period, of course we'll look at where we are, and we will evaluate whether we need to extend it or not," said Pat Kelley, executive director of Idaho's exchange, called Your Health Idaho.
Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico also have their own sign-up options, though New Mexico’s will be a mix of federal and state-run exchanges until this fall. All of those state exchanges are open from now until May 15, just like the federal program.
Janel Davis said that’s by design.
“I think it kind of makes it easier for everybody,” said Davis, spokesperson for her state’s exchange, Nevada Health Link. “You hear in the news that enrollment is this time for people who are on Healthcare.gov and other states.”
Monica Caballeros is with Colorado’s exchange, which is called Connect For Health Colorado. She said that this time frame also gives people more time to hear about the open enrollment period and sign up.
“There’s still people who have never heard of Connect For Health Colorado or who haven’t heard of these exchanges because they’ve always maybe had insurance from a job,” she said.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement that it will be spending $50 million to get the word out about the new open enrollment period. That’s after former President Donald Trump declined to reopen enrollment during the pandemic last year and cut ACA advertising funds by 90%, down to $10 million.
Cheryl Fish-Parcham is with Families USA, a group that advocates for access to health care. She’s thrilled the marketplace is reopening nationally, noting that a lot of people are hurting this year and may not have had to find their own insurance before. For those who’ve lost their jobs or had a pay cut, she says it’s important to give them more access to insurance.
“With everything on their plate, health coverage has not been the first thing that people have thought about (during the pandemic),” she said. “So we are really pleased that the federal government has now opened a new enrollment to help people get coverage who really need it.”
If you need help figuring out how your state exchange program operates, you can find that information at HealthCare.gov.
While enrollment periods are limited, qualifying life events (like having a baby, losing a job or getting a pay cut) allow people to sign up for health insurance outside the open enrollment window. That is, even after open enrollment is closed, if you experience one of these life events, you have a 60-day window to sign up.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.