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States reopen insurance enrollment; both NH and Vt. have special sign-up period because of pandemic

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/22/2021 7:57:32 PM
Modified: 2/22/2021 8:04:32 PM

WEST LEBANON — People without health insurance can enroll in plans through the Affordable Care Act now through mid-May.

Both Vermont and New Hampshire opened “special enrollment” periods last week, allowing those without health insurance to sign up for health plans through either Vermont Health Connect in Vermont or healthcare.gov in New Hampshire.

The states did so in accordance with a Jan. 28 executive order by President Joe Biden requiring that the exchanges reopen to allow people who have lost their job-based health plans during the COVID-19 pandemic to enroll. The exchanges allow those who qualify to receive premium and cost-sharing assistance.

The regular open enrollment period for the marketplaces ended in December. This special enrollment period ends May 14 in Vermont and May 15 in New Hampshire.

“With this opportunity, New Hampshire residents who are uninsured will be able to sign up for coverage without waiting until the next regular open enrollment period at the end of the year,” New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Chris Nicolopoulos said in a news release.

The premiums available on the exchange are lower than they have been in the past, Nicolopoulos said.

Officials also urged consumers to shop around while purchasing health insurance.

“There are many options and some plans are more affordable or offer a better network of health care providers than others,” said Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in the release.

Three insurance companies are offering individual plans on the New Hampshire marketplace this year: Anthem, Ambetter from N.H. Healthy Families and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Qualified health plan issuers in Vermont include: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, MVP Health Care and Northeast Delta Dental.

Outside of the exchanges, both states have seen an increase in Medicaid enrollment as people saw their income decline during the pandemic.

In New Hampshire, enrollment in Medicaid grew nearly 20% from 179,000 people in January 2020 to about 214,000 last month, according to a Feb. 2 report from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ office of quality assurance and improvement.

From March to September of last year, the number of Vermonters enrolled in Medicaid rose to about 193,000, an increase of about 16,000 people, or 9%, according to Nissa James, a spokeswoman for the Department of Vermont Health Access.

During the pandemic, Vermont is not requiring financial verifications for people who enroll in Medicaid; it also is not ending coverage unless people ask to end it or move out of state; and it is waiving premiums for Dr. Dinosaur, the Medicaid program for children, according to the Health Connect website.

“Vermonters can apply for Vermont Medicaid at any time,” said Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Cory Gustafson in a news release. “Enrollment opportunities for qualified health plans are more limited, so we are opening this special enrollment period and urge uninsured Vermonters to sign up.”

To enroll in plans through Vermont Health Connect, Vermonters can call 1-855-899-9600 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Online enrollment is not available.

In New Hampshire, those seeking federal financial assistance to pay for a plan can enroll through HealthCare.gov. Insurance agents or enrollment assistants are available to help navigate the process. Granite Staters also can call the insurance department at 800-852-3416.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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