(by Andres Rojas)

Just days after his inauguration, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that reopened the federal health marketplace. Beginning on February 15 and ending on May 15, 2021, uninsured citizens will have three months to register for an individual or job-based health plan.

The measure aims to extend health care coverage to 15 million uninsured Americans, many of whom lost their job-based health care during the ongoing unemployment crisis.

Despite an almost 7% increase in enrollment in November-December of last year, some 15 million Americans still lack access to basic medical coverage. However, the new President’s pro-ACA stance might remedy this in the future.

New President, New Medicare Rules

Biden’s election signals a fresh start for Obamacare. While Donald Trump tried repealing the Act, Biden promised to restore ACA’s individual mandate to buy health care insurance – which was zeroed out by the 2017 tax cut bill. 

Along with his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, the President sees the reopening of the marketplace as essential to defeating the pandemic. According to him, the plan will, “ramp up testing, tracing, and our national vaccination program.”

Furthermore, he wants to extend Medicare coverage to the most vulnerable sectors – including people of color and unemployed citizens.

Out of the uninsured population, almost 9 million qualify for federal financial assistance. So individuals making up to $51,000, and families of four making up to $104,800 could receive subsidies in the near future.

State-Based Exchanges Have Also Created Special Enrollment Periods

The President’s executive order has re-opened the federal health marketplace across the Union. The District of Columbia and most states running their own health marketplaces have also created special enrollment periods – though the time frames and eligibility criteria may vary.

In California, the hardest-hit state in the country, Covered California’s special enrollment period began on February 1 and will run through May 15. Massachusetts Health Connector, on the other hand, will extend from February 03 until May 23. 

Other state exchanges, like Pennsylvania’s Pennie, follow the federal three-month time frame from February 15 to May 15.

Meanwhile, Idaho’s special enrollment period – one of the shortest in the country – will run from March 1-31, 2021.

How Do These Measures Benefit Businesses?

Any employer who wishes to attract and retain talent has to eat, sleep, and breathe healthcare. Particularly because, despite the availability of the vaccine, the pandemic is still raging in many states.

So if Medicare was a recruiter’s selling point before 2019, it’s an absolute necessity in 2021.

Medicare allows highly-experienced employees to keep working well past their retirement age. But more importantly, it gives everybody in the office the peace of mind they need to be productive. 

After all, what employee can bring his ‘A’ game to work if he or she is worried about getting sick and being uninsured? Helping your employees enroll in Medicare can reduce the strain on your company’s group health care system without cutting your talent pool.

Businesses Play a Critical Role in Raising Health Care Awareness

Despite starting in 2014, public awareness about Obamacare remains fairly low. Indeed, there are millions of people who haven’t enrolled simply because they don’t know they’re eligible.

According to a study carried by the Urban Institute in September of last year, almost two-thirds of uninsured adults said they knew little to nothing about Medicare. Add to this statistic the fact that Trump cut 90% of ACA’s marketing budget and you’ll understand why 15 million Americans remain uninsured. 

With Obamacare still being a mystery for many Americans, businesses play a key role in helping spread awareness among their employees about what an open enrollment period is.

Make Sure Your Team Is Fully Covered in 2021

Despite the arrival of the vaccine, the fight against COVID-19 isn’t over yet. Nobody knows how many more lives the pandemic will claim before it stops. What we do know is that you can make a difference and keep a healthy, motivated workforce by educating them on the importance and process of enrolling for Medicare.

Make sure you know your state’s special enrollment deadlines and requirements or, better yet, contact us at Zupnick and Associates and let us sort things out for you. 

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