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  • September 23, 2020

    Health Insurance Marketplace: What You Need to Know Now

    Health insurance coverage may change for many people this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Christine Huberty discusses key points of the Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Marketplace in 2020 for both existing and new enrollees.

    Christine Huberty

    stethescope on keyboard

    ​There are many factors that go into making a decision regarding health care coverage. With the Open Enrollment beginning soon, it is important to know what changes there are, given both issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in the Health Insurance Marketplace during 2020.

    Open Enrollment

    The Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment Period runs from Sunday, Nov. 1 through Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.1 Coverage begins Jan. 1, 2021.2 If you do not enroll in a plan by Dec. 15, 2020, enrollment is not available at any other time of the year unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.3

    Automatic Enrollment

    If you already have a Marketplace plan, you will be automatically enrolled into your current plan if it is still available in the Marketplace.4

    Christine Huberty Christine Huberty, William Mitchell 2013, is a lead benefit specialist supervising attorney with Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources in Madison, where she has provided legal supervision for elder benefit specialists in 17 Wisconsin counties for the past five years.

    If your current plan is no longer offered, will enroll you in a new plan that is as similar as possible to your 2020 plan. This means there is a chance you may be automatically enrolled into a plan that has a different type of network, a different metal level (bronze, silver, gold, platinum), or even a plan with a different insurer if your current insurer is no longer offering any plans in the Marketplace.

    For these reasons, everyone with a Marketplace plan should review their coverage, research whether there are better options for 2021, and make sure they know what actions – if any – they need to take.

    Special Enrollment Periods

    Typically, you have 60 days after a life-changing (“triggering”) event for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) into a Marketplace Plan outside of Open Enrollment.5 Triggering events include, but are not limited to, losing other qualifying coverage, getting married, having a child, moving, or other “exceptional circumstances.”6

    Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Special Enrollment Period

    In August 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) clarified that an “exceptional circumstance” includes when an individual is affected by a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared emergency or major disaster.7

    This means that in 2020 you have additional opportunities to enroll if you meet the following criteria:

    • You reside in an area during the incident period of a FEMA-declared disaster or emergency (currently, all states are covered under FEMA’s COVID-19 pandemic national emergency declaration);8

    • You were eligible for another SEP; and

    • You failed to enroll with the SEP for which you were eligible due to impacts from the FEMA-declared disaster (in this case, impacts from COVID-19).

    The application now asks whether you have had any SEP-qualifying events since Jan. 1, 2020, rather than the typical 60 days.

    This means that if you were eligible for an SEP at any time since Jan. 1, 2020, but did not enroll, you may still qualify for coverage. However, if you have not had any SEP-qualifying events since Jan. 1, you are not eligible for the FEMA SEP. The COVID-19 pandemic alone does not create an SEP.

    Retirement, Medicare, & Marketplace

    With COVID-19 forcing many businesses to shut down, reduce hours, or furlough/lay off employees, many individuals are deciding to retire earlier than they may have planned. Therefore, it is important to understand how Medicare and the Marketplace work together.

    The main consideration is the order of enrollment. There are two possibilities:

    • If you are already enrolled in a Marketplace plan, you can add Medicare, but you will lose any premium tax credit subsidies.9

    • If you are already enrolled in Medicare, you cannot enroll in a Marketplace plan, because a Marketplace plan is considered duplicate coverage. For this reason, penalties can be imposed against any insurance agent who knowingly sells or issues a Marketplace plan to a Medicare beneficiary.10

    Finally, it is important to distinguish the Marketplace Open Enrollment Period with Medicare’s Part D Annual Enrollment Period for prescription drug coverage, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2020.11 Coverage for these plans also begin Jan. 1, 2021.12

    For more information, see

    This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Public Interest Law Section Blog. The blog is a section benefit. Visit the State Bar sections or the Public Interest Law Section web pages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.

    Association Health Plan Gives Small-firm Members Another Health Care Option

    Open Enrollment is Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2020. As you review your health care coverage needs for 2021, consider the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Association Health Plan (AHP). First available in 2020, the AHP is another health care insurance option for members in firms of two or more employees.

    The Association Health Plan allows law firms to be underwritten outside of “community rating.” This means rather than being rated as an entire pool, health underwriting allows your firm to be rated accordingly, unlike ACA plans which do not allow this type of underwriting.

    Find out more about the Association Health Plan in InsideTrack and via the member benefits page on


    1 45 C.F.R. § 155.410(e)(3).

    2 Id. at (f)(2)(i).

    3 Id. at (a)(2).

    4 45 C.F.R. § 155.420(g).

    5 Id. at (c)(1).

    6 Id. at (d).

    7 CMS, Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, mem. (Aug. 9, 2018).

    8 See

    9 26 C.F.R. § 1.36B-2.

    10 42 C.F.R. § 1003.1100(d)(1).

    11 42 C.F.R. § 423.38(b)(3).

    12 42 C.F.R. § 423.40(b)(1).

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    Public Interest Law Section Blog is published by the State Bar of Wisconsin; blog posts are written by section members. To contribute to this blog, contact Jacob Haller and review Author Submission Guidelines. Learn more about the Public Interest Law Section or become a member.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

    © 2024 State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.

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