Special Enrollment Info and Extended Open Enrollment for Hurricane Impacted Areas Announced by Federal Government
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2017
Contact: CMS Media Relations
(202) 690-6145 | CMS Media Inquiries
CMS Announces Special Enrollment Periods for Americans Impacted by Recent Hurricanes
Agency provides special open enrollment periods for 2017 Medicare and Exchange coverage
As a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries and certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange. This important step gives these individuals and families who have been impacted by the hurricanes the opportunity to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and gain access to health coverage on the Exchange immediately if eligible for a special enrollment period.
“The lives of millions of Americans have been disrupted and impacted in some way by recent hurricanes,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Setting up special enrollment periods gives Medicare beneficiaries and individuals seeking coverage on the Federal Exchange the opportunity to access health coverage during this difficult time and when they need it the most. We remain committed to doing all we can to help support the areas and individuals affected by these historic and catastrophic hurricanes.”
CMS established the following special enrollment periods to support individuals impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria:
Medicare special enrollment period: This special enrollment period will allow individuals affected by these hurricanes to enroll, dis-enroll or switch Medicare health or prescription drug plans. It is available at the start of the incident period and runs through the end of the calendar year. Individuals may contact 1-800-MEDICARE to request enrollment using this special enrollment opportunity.
Federal Health Insurance Exchange special enrollment period: CMS created this special enrollment period for certain individuals impacted by these hurricanes who need to enroll in a 2017plan through the Exchange or make changes to their existing 2017 plan. This special enrollment period will apply to individuals who experienced a special enrollment period qualifying event between 60 days prior to the start date of the incident period and December 31, 2017, but were unable to complete the application, plan selection, and enrollment process due to a hurricane-related weather event in 2017. This special enrollment period will allow individuals impacted by the storms to select a new 2017 Exchange plan or make changes to their existing plan at any time through December, 31, 2017. Individuals affected by the storms may contact the Exchange Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to enroll in a plan.
In addition to the special enrollment periods for the 2017, individuals who reside in or move from areas affected by a hurricane in 2017 will be eligible for a special enrollment period that extends the 2018 Annual Open Enrollment Period through December 31, 2017. These individuals may contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to request enrollment using this special enrollment period after December 15, 2017.
These special enrollment opportunities are in addition to the Medicare and Exchange annual Open Enrollment Periods this fall and any other enrollment period for which the individual may be eligible. CMS will continue to examine the circumstances in the areas affected by hurricanes and will consider taking action that reaches beyond December 31, 2017, if needed.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., declared public health emergencies in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – areas all impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. With the public health emergencies in effect, CMS has temporarily waived or modified certain Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements to provide healthcare providers, facilities, and suppliers the flexibility they need so they can focus on the health and safety of those impacted by the hurricanes.
For more information on special enrollment periods for Medicare, visit:
General guidance: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/Downloads/Disaster-Memo-Medicare-SEP.pdf
Provider Access: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/Downloads/Disaster-Provider-Access.pdf
For more information on special enrollment periods for the Health Insurance Exchange, visit: https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Regulations-and-Guidance/Downloads/2017-Hurricane-Disasters-Guidance.pdf
The agency continues to update its emergency page (www.cms.gov/emergency) with important information on its efforts to support hurricane response and recovery efforts.
For information regarding HHS hurricane response activities, please visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/news.
Reprinted from Kaiser Health News, September 19, 2017
Health Plan Navigators: Feds Don’t Appreciate Scope Of The Job
The Trump administration says many of the organizations that help people enroll in health plans on the federal insurance marketplaces don’t provide enough bang for the buck, sometimes costing thousands of dollars to sign up each customer. So, it is cutting their funding, some by as much as 90 percent, the government told the groups last week.
But the navigators, as they’re called, say the government doesn’t understand the time involved in the effort or the complexity of the enrollment challenge. Nor do federal officials appreciate the variety of tasks that navigators are asked to handle, they say.
Some customers don’t know how to use a computer. Many don’t understand insurance lingo — what’s a deductible, anyway? — or how to pick the best plan for their needs. Consumers get confused about estimating income and determining household size to qualify for premium tax credits that are available for people with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level (about $98,000 for a family of four). What if you’re self-employed and have no idea how many hours of work you’ll get next year? If Grandma is a dependent, does she count as part of the household? What about mixed immigrant families, in which one member is undocumented and ineligible for health insurance? These are the types of vexing questions navigators routinely field, they say.
In addition to helping people sign up, navigators often assist them throughout the year as their income or job status changes and offer community outreach and education services. Marketplace coverage is complicated and so are people’s lives, they argue, and finding the right plan can be tough.
“You can decide on the best policy, but people come from so many different backgrounds and experiences that it’s impossible to have a policy that can be applied uniformly,” says Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. The center has run a technical assistance project for navigators in recent years and produced an online guide that addresses frequently asked questions.
Sandy Dimick is program director for Get Covered Tennessee, part of Family and Children’s Service, the state’s primary navigator grant recipient. She says one of the common issues that navigators there deal with is helping self-employed people estimate their income for the coming year to know if they can qualify for federal subsidies to help pay for their premiums.
“We’re in Nashville, Music City, and lots of musicians are contract workers,” she says. “They think they qualify for subsidized coverage, but by the time they deduct their expenses they may be in the Medicaid gap because we didn’t expand Medicaid here.” She was referring to people whose incomes are below 100 percent of the poverty level, the minimum amount to qualify for marketplace premium tax credits, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Navigators can also be instrumental in helping clients save money on out-of-pocket costs, she says, because the federal health law offers cost-sharing reduction subsidies for people earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (about $30,000 for an individual in 2018). The subsidies may bring their deductibles down to zero, potentially saving them thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs, Dimick says. But many marketplace customers don’t know about the subsidy and don’t realize it’s available only if they buy a silver plan on the marketplace. Unless these people work with a navigator, they may miss out because those who are financially strapped lean toward purchasing the slightly cheaper bronze plan that doesn’t qualify for cost-sharing reductions.
Dimick says her group will lose 15 percent in federal funding on its $1.6 million grant, about the amount they had anticipated.
Helping people understand how the marketplace coverage works is an ongoing challenge, says Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at the Community Service Society, New York’s largest navigator program. New York runs its own marketplace, and Benjamin says she doesn’t expect a funding cut.
“People are still struggling with the metal levels,” Benjamin says, referring to the bronze, silver, gold and platinum plan types offered on the marketplaces that pay from 60 to 90 percent of covered medical expenses. “They don’t understand that if they have premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions they shouldn’t just lurch to the lowest-cost bronze plan.”
Erinn Garrison, a navigator in Ohio, sometimes travels to meet people at coffee shops or churches in the rural portions of the state.
“A lot of the people I work with have limited technological capability,” says Garrison, the health initiatives manager at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks in Columbus, which leads a statewide consortium of navigators. “They can’t work on a computer.”
The group’s navigator funding was cut by 71 percent for the coming year, to $485,967.
The Trump administration is taking a hard line, it says, because the navigator groups have not shown that they are providing good value. Last year, the groups received $62.5 million and enrolled 81,426 individuals. The administration says the new funding formula is based on how well each group did toward meeting its 2017 enrollment goal, but many navigator groups say there doesn’t appear to be a correlation.
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the federal marketplaces, has a toll-free call center. When asked if it plans to increase staffing or undertake other enrollment activities this year, officials said, “CMS will continue to operate our year-round exchange call center to assist consumers with enrollment and as in past years we will ramp up staffing to support the higher call volume anticipated during open enrollment.”
If navigators are thin on the ground this fall, people can opt to sign up directly with insurers or brokers. The federal government plans to launch a “help on demand” tool on healthcare.gov that will connect consumers directly with agents and brokers, according to a blog post on the Health Affairs website by Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia and an expert on the health law. But advocates have expressed concerns that consumers may not get impartial advice from vendors who receive sales commissions for specific insurance products.
In addition to healthcare.gov, some groups have published detailed information aimed at navigators that may help intrepid consumers get answers to enrollment questions. The Georgetown navigator guide is available online, as is information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The published CBPP information may be helpful to some individuals, but it’s not a substitute for navigators who help people one-on-one, says Judith Solomon, the center’s vice president for health policy. “It’s not boots on the ground,” she says.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2017
Media Contact: Jody Young | 561-704-3912 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jodi Ray, Director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, ( FL-CKF) a community and consumer-focused nonprofit initiative of The Chiles Center, based in the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida , announced today that her organization has received a $4.9M award from the US Health and Human Service Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for Affordable Care Act enrollment and outreach programs for the current project year beginning September 13, 2017. Ray acknowledged that her program has received a 15% reduction in its expected award, requiring the organization to adjust the statewide program budget for the coming year's activities. Research shows that consumers are twice as likely to successfully enroll having in-person assistance as those who have attempted online without help. In addition, historically underserved communities rely more on in-person assistance.
Open Enrollment begins on November 1st this year and continues until December 15th for those needing coverage beginning January 1st , 2018. The 2018 Open Enrollment window has been shortened this year to six-weeks, so consumers need to be made aware of the earlier deadline.
Ray stated “ Our network of Navigators is recognized nationally for the service they provide to the communities across the state of Florida, for their high quality work and for the amazing number of consumers who have been helped in gaining coverage for the last several years. Our Navigators make an impactful difference in the lives of Floridians, and rest assured, we will continue our hard work and make best efforts on informing the public and helping them gain the coverage they deserve and access to the healthcare they need.”
Ray continued, “Our Navigators not only do outreach and sign-ups, but we help consumers update their accounts, resolve data matching issues, understand their coverage options and how to use the coverage, file appeals and exemptions, inform them on the impact of unpaid premiums, and refer them to health care providers and community resources. Because of the decreased resources for outreach and marketing we will need more help from the communities and from the media to make sure the Open Enrollment window and deadlines are widely shared and publicized.”
FL-CKF and its consortium partners have been providing Navigator services throughout the state of Florida since the first Open Enrollment period in 2013. The following partners comprise the USF statewide consortium and are collectively known as "Covering Florida":
Covering Florida is frequently called upon as an expert in health insurance coverage and health literacy for its ability to reach out to diverse audiences and educate consumers about health insurance coverage and utilization including options under the Affordable Care Act, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicaid. Covering Florida reaches consumers through partner organizations and collaborates with hundreds of organizations, many of which provide direct service to thousands of health care consumers. The organization focuses largely on advocating for and increasing access to care and services via enrollment for individuals with limited English proficiency, individuals with disabilities, populations underserved in the current private health insurance market, and vulnerable populations by employing multi-lingual Navigators, producing brochures in multiple languages, conducting workshops, and providing interviews in various languages.
For free in-person Navigator assistance state-wide call (877) 813-9115 or visit http://www.coveringflorida.org/
Reprinted from USF College of Public Health News, February 8 2017
On January 13, Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families (FL-CKF) , and members of her team visited the White House for a formal award ceremony honoring 50 of the campuses who took part in the White House Healthy Campus Challenge.
The USF College of Public Health’s FL-CKF program is the largest Navigator program in the nation, with USF receiving a total of $21 million over the past four years to operate the program.
Navigators provide outreach and enrollment services to anyone looking to enroll for health care coverage in the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace.
Ray enrolled USF in the challenge, a national effort to focus more engagement toward students and young people on getting enrolled in health coverage, at the beginning of this year’s open enrollment period.
According to Ray, the White House was hoping that at least 40 campuses would sign-up for the challenge, however a total of 350 other campuses across the nation took part in the effort.
Ray and her team of USF Navigators held various health care enrollment events on the USF campus, known as “Nav-Labs,” where the campus and community were free to speak with Navigators for enrollment assistance on the spot.
She said they also expanded their reach through strategic social media campaigns and messaging.
“The White House told me they designed the initiative [challenge] after our project,” Ray said. “I had no idea they were watching us this closely.”
Ray said she submitted a comprehensive summary of activities her team took part in to reach students, including details of enrollment engagement efforts at Hillsborough Community College, Eastern Florida State College, Miami-Dade College, and others across the state.
“We decided to capture not just what we were doing within the USF community, but how the USF grant was doing this with other campuses around the state,” she said. “We were so broad in terms of our campus challenge outreach. We wanted everyone engaged with this effort, so while we do a lot with the USF campus, we talked about all of the work we’ve been doing.”
The White House officially recognized a select group of the campuses that took part in the challenge with a certificate of honor.
While there, Ray was also asked to speak on a panel, which was live streamed via the web, to discuss millennial enrollment trends, a group that Ray said is typically the slowest to enroll in health care coverage.
Former first lady, Michelle Obama, also met with the group for a photograph and an informal meet and greet with attendees.
Ray said that while there are talks of repealing the Affordable Care Act, she is proud to know that it has helped millions obtain coverage.
“I hope they [Congress] can get beyond the philosophical and political and work to make it even better,” Ray said. “We know 20 million have enrolled in health insurance that didn’t have it.”
Open enrollment ended on January 31, however, the special enrollment period is now open. For more information about obtaining coverage in 2017, visit www.CoveringFlorida.org or call a USF Navigator at 877-813-9115.
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health
Floridians Who Enroll by this Tuesday Can Use Their Coverage Starting March 1
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 27, 2017
Consumers who want to enroll in or renew their coverage through the Affordable Care Act should know that as of now nothing has changed, financial help is available, and they can still enroll in a quality, affordable insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Tuesday, January 31 is the final deadline for Florida residents to enroll in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace during the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. With just 5 days left, the clock is ticking and Floridians should act now to make sure they have time to shop around, consider their options, and enroll in the plan that best fits their needs and budget.
Anyone who enrolls in coverage by January 31 will be able to use their coverage beginning on March 1, and anyone who enrolls in coverage will likely be able to keep throughout 2017. Medicaid enrollment is also open year-round, and consumers who apply and are eligible can enroll and begin getting services immediately.
“We want to make sure no consumer is confused: until Tuesday at midnight, you can still enroll in coverage through the Affordable Care Act,” said Jodi Ray, Program Director of Florida Covering Kids and Families at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “So far, close to 1.7 million Florida residents have enrolled in coverage already this open enrollment period, and we’re encouraging everyone to take action now to find the best plan for their family.”
Everybody’s needs and financial situations are different, and plans and prices change every year, so all Floridians should shop the options available to them. All Marketplace health plans are required to cover the basics – from preventive care, emergency services, prescriptions, and more. And quality protection comes at an affordable price for most Florida residents thanks to the financial assistance available to lower the cost of plans. In fact, 89% of the enrollees in Florida who have signed up so far are receiving financial help.
In order to help Floridians explore their options, there are a variety of resources available so that consumers can be confident that they are choosing the best plan for them. Free, local in-person help is available across Florida through certified assisters who can sit down one-on-one and answer questions about coverage and benefits. Scheduling an appointment is easy: simply use the Covering Florida Get Covered Connector tool and choose a convenient time and location. Enroll America also offers a free, easy-to-use digital tool called the Get Covered Plan Explorer, which helps consumers navigate the plans available to them and estimate their total health care costs for the year so they can pick the plan that best fits their needs and budget. For free in-person Navigator assistance state-wide call (877)813-9115 or visit http://www.coveringflorida.org/
The ACA is Still Available and Open Enrollment Ends Soon!
The Event is Free, with In-Person Enrollment Assistance, Free Flu Shots, Immunizations, Blood Tests, and Gifts
Tampa, Florida – University of South Florida (USF) health insurance navigators and community partners are hosting an on-site, free, community outreach and enrollment event that is open to the entire USF campus. Participants can learn about the 2017 health insurance Marketplace plans, prices, changes, as well as financial assistance that may be available. Open enrollment began on November 1 and ends on January 31, 2017. Attendees can also get free flu shots, blood tests, immunizations, HIV education and screening, and free gifts!
Over 1.6 million Floridians have signed up so far this open enrollment cycle. The health care law is still on the books and available to consumers. 89% of Floridians signed up for Marketplace coverage will receive advanced premium tax credits that lower their premiums by an average of $323 per month.
WHO: USF Health navigators, Family Healthcare Foundation, Enroll America, USF Student Health Services, Hillsborough County Health Department, USF Health, Metro Health, Wellness, & Community, and USF student organizations.
WHAT: Health Care Open Enrollment Event including free, unbiased enrollment assistance, free health screenings, blood tests, education, free gifts, and much more.
WHEN: Tuesday, January 24, 2017
from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: USF Marshall Student Center
4103 USF Cedar Circle
Tampa, FL 33620
“Nav-Lab” walk-ins are welcome, but registration is recommended because parking is limited. For more information or to register, please call (813) 803-0628.
In addition to on-site, free enrollment assistance, #CoveringFloridaByJAN31 will be a passport event, where individuals can pick up a “passport” at the enrollment sign-in table and collect stamps from #CoveringFloridaByJAN31 vendors. Event vendors will include: The Hillsborough County Health Department, who will provide free flu, Tdap, PSV23, and HVP immunizations; USF Health, who will provide free blood glucose and blood pressure screenings; CW 44 will be providing giveaways from their shows; MOSI; Metro Health, Wellness, & Community, who will provide free HIV education and testing, and USF student organizations. Completed passports can be turned in for free gift at the Covering Florida health insurance Marketplace education table.
There will be very limited free parking spaces within Lot 3B off USF Holly Drive. These spaces will be marked off as reserved for this event only. Visitors parking on the USF-Tampa campus are required to purchase a daily parking permit. Parking pay station is located off USF Cedar Drive, Lot 5A. Daily parking for the Marshall Center is located within the Crescent Hill Parking Garage or Lot 3B and 3C off USF Holly Drive. There is also a sheltered Bull Runner Stop USF Cedar Circle, immediately in front of the Marshall Center.
People who would like to sign up for health coverage should bring the following: health insurance Marketplace account information (including password) or an email address, social security number, income information, identification, naturalization, or immigration documentation.
USF Health's mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. For more information, visit www.health.usf.edu
USF Navigators will be on the main campus at the Student Health Services Annex conference room, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, #100, Tampa, FL on January 18, 2017 from 10am until 3pm, providing Health Insurance Marketplace education and enrollment assistance.
January 31, 2017: 2017 Open Enrollment ends.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and the UnitedStatesofWomen.org have a live forum underway in Miami which can be accessed on Facebook Live
Millions of women currently obtain their contraception coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and millions more are eligible to access that benefit. As the deadline for enrolling in ACA approaches, what role does accessing affordable health care coverage play in birth control? What direct benefits are linked with ACA and how has—and will—it provide a wide array of benefits to women, men, children, and society?
It is estimated that 55 million women have benefited from ACA coverage of preventive services, which includes all FDA-approved methods of contraception without co-pays or deductibles. Despite these impressive coverage gains, any cuts in funding to the nation’s network of safety-net clinics, as well as any threatened rollback of health coverage, could result in dramatic declines in access to effective and affordable contraception.
Join us, in partnership with the United State of Women at Miami Dade College, for a conversation highlighting the interections of birth control and access to afforable health care.
#ThxBirthControl: Contraception and Access to Affordable Insurance
Tuesday, January 10th, 10:00 A.M. — 11:30 A.M. ET
Join us in person or on Facebook Live!
Miami Dade College—Kendall Campus
Building 400K and Room K-413
11011 SW 104th St, Miami, FL 33176
Ginny Ehrlich, CEO, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
Taylor Barnes, Director, The United State of Women
Stephanely Rivas, actress, a personal ACA story
and Katie Turner, University of South Florida ACA Navigator Contract Manager
MAY THE COVERAGE BE WITH YOU!...
USF Navigators will be on the main campus at the Marshall Student Center January 11, 2017 from 10am-3pm, providing Health Insurance Marketplace education and enrollment assistance.
“Nav-Lab” walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are recommended because parking is limited. For more information or to set up an appointment, please call (813) 803-0628.
The deadlines this year to enroll for coverage under the Affordable Care Act are
January 15, 2017: Last day to enroll in or change plans for new coverage to start February 1, 2017; and
January 31, 2017: 2017 Open Enrollment ends.
Enrollments or changes between January 16 and January 31 take effect March 1, 2017.