Whether you missed open enrollment last year, you want out of your current plan or you simply need to find health insurance, you’re in luck.

President Joe Biden authorized a new Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that will run through May 15.

The SEP for the Health Insurance Marketplace is available to consumers in 36 states that use the HealthCare.gov platform.

Under the plan, 13 states and the District of Columbia, which operate health care marketplaces, are offering a similar opportunity.

The COVID-19 public health emergency has affected millions of people throughout the country, and many Americans remain uninsured or underinsured and need access to affordable health coverage, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Consumers who are uninsured can look for coverage and find out if they qualify for financial assistance to help pay for health insurance.

Currently, nine out of 10 consumers enrolled in coverage through HealthCare.gov receive financial help and 75 percent of consumers can purchase a plan for $50 or less per month after financial assistance.

The department says the HealthCare.gov plans cover essential health benefits, such as primary care visits, and cover many preventive care services with no out-of-pocket costs to the consumer.

“President Biden was clear: we need to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and give more Americans access to health care, especially during this pandemic, which has further demonstrated the importance of having the right coverage,” said acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran. “This Special Enrollment Period will give Americans who need affordable, quality health insurance an opportunity to get covered, and we encourage folks to head to HealthCare.gov … to explore their options.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, was enacted in March 2010. It was considered the most controversial and expansive overhaul of the nation’s health care system since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965.

Under the ACA, users could not be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions or other reasons except age.

Since 2010, opponents of the act challenged the law with litigation that sought to overturn the law.

The Supreme Court upheld the act and its key provisions in rulings in 2012 and 2015 and is expected to uphold the law against a new challenge. Policy Advice estimates more than 23 million people are covered under the ACA.

The Biden administration says the SEP is one of its first steps in pursuing health equity across the country.

“Collaborating closely with community partners, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will focus its outreach and education efforts on reaching groups that historically have experienced lower access to health coverage and greater disparities in health outcomes,” according to a recent HHS statement. “CMS is working with several organizations, including those that focus on helping the uninsured and other vulnerable communities, to ensure consumers get timely and accurate information about the SEP.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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