HHS Proposes Fixed Open Enrollment Dates, Automatic Re-Enrollment Alternatives

In the first 2 years of the Affordable Care Act, open enrollment has run for 2 different time periods, and HHS is looking to set a fixed date for future years. Plus, it offers a solution to automatic re-enrollment.

In the first 2 years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), open enrollment has run for 2 different time periods. Last year, consumers could sign up for plans from October 1 until March 31, and this year the enrollment period was shorter: November 15 to February 15.

HHS has proposed setting the open enrollment period to sign-up under the ACA from October 1 until December 15 every year starting next year.

According to the document released Friday by HHS, although the proposed open enrollment period is shorter than prior ones, it should be sufficient time. Plus, it will not span the holiday season as this year’s and last year’s open enrollment periods, which was a concern since people may not focus on health insurance coverage, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The new dates for open enrollment also do not span calendar years. According to HHS, this should reduce confusion regarding effective dates for coverage, which is effective January 1 the following year.

“This will be less complicated for Exchanges and issuers to implement,” according to the proposal.

Before this year’s open enrollment, the government encouraged consumers who were re-enrolling to shop around again. As the administration and industry experts warned, premium changes could mean that the plans most competitively priced could change from year to year. Individuals who simply re-enroll in the same plan could find themselves in plans that are more expensive than the lowest cost plans available in their market.

As a result, HHS is also proposing an approach in the federal Marketplace that would offer individuals a choice of re-enrollment hierarchies. For instance, the consumer could opt to be re-enrolled into a low-cost plan, such as one of the same metal level with the lowest premium available.

“This alternative enrollment hierarchy could be triggered if the enrollee’s current plan’s premium increased from the prior year, or increased relative to the premium of other similar plans (such as plans of the same metal tier), by more than a threshold amount, such as 5 percent or 10 percent,” according to the proposal.

This alternative hierarchy could be applied during enrollment for the 2017 coverage year.