The 2017 hurricane season has been one of the worst in history. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused significant damage in the southern United States as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This has led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to extend open enrollment not only for Medicare but for the federal exchanges as well.
Open enrollment for Medicare started October 15. For all others, open enrollment to obtain health insurance in 2018 will start November 1. Victims of the hurricanes will have an additional two weeks to sign up for next year.
If you lived in areas affected by the hurricanes and were impacted by the storm yourself, whether it was damage, injury or forced relocation, you are eligible for the extension. Under the ACA, anyone with a life-changing event can make changes to their health insurance outside the enrollment period. CMS announced that anyone who experienced a qualifying life event 60 days prior to the hurricanes but were unable to complete the application, select a new plan or enroll in a plan due to the hurricane, now has until December 31 to complete the process.
It will also allow anyone impacted by the storms to sign up for or renew existing coverage from November 1 through December 31. Open enrollment for the rest of the country ends on December 15.
If you live in one of the following areas affected by the 2017 hurricane season, you are eligible for the extended enrollment:
- South Carolina
Not all areas of each state are included in the extension. Only counties that were affected by the hurricanes qualify.
If you were required to move from areas affected by hurricanes, you are also eligible for a special enrollment period through the end of the year. Those who want to take advantage of this extended enrollment offer need to contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 in order to sign up after December 15.
One of the reasons for this extension is that many who were displaced after the hurricanes cannot access financial records or other data necessary to qualify them for some of the subsidies available under the federal exchange program. Likewise, if you were required to relocate due to damage to your residence and have been unable to return, your policy may not cover services in another area of the state or country. This would require you to find another plan that will keep you covered in your new location.
State Exchanges Not Included
Because the states affected chose not to set up their own marketplaces and decided to use the federal marketplace for health insurance, all residents who qualify may use the extension program. The extension only applies to the federal marketplaces. If you are a resident of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you are not eligible to participate in the federal marketplace, but may be able to use the extension available to Medicare participants.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration reduced the enrollment period from the 12 weeks available under the Obama administration to six weeks, running from November 1 through December 15. This extension gives those affected by the hurricanes an additional two weeks to either renew or sign up for a new policy to avoid a lapse in coverage.