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Special Enrollment Period Announced for Hurricane Impacted Areas

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in late September that if you were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria, you will receive an extension to make changes to your health insurance if you purchased it through the federal health insurance exchange. Medicare recipients were also given an extension to make changes to their plans.

Federal Exchange Market

To be eligible for the extended special enrollment period for hurricane victims, you must live in one of the following affected areas:

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • South Carolina

If you experienced a qualifying life event 60 days prior to the start date of the incident period and December 31, 2017, but were unable to complete the application, select your plan or enroll due to the storms, you now have until December 31 to complete the process. It will also allow anyone impacted by the storms to choose a new plan or make changes to their plan at any time from now until December 31.

Relocated Customers

The enrollment expansion may also apply if you were required to move from an area affected by the hurricane and no longer have access to your plan provider. This extension includes signing up during the 2018 annual open enrollment period, but you must contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to request enrollment beyond December 15.

According to CMS, millions of Americans have been affected by the recent hurricanes and the special enrollment periods are designed to give customers looking for coverage on the federal exchange access to plans as they recover from the impact of the storms.

In some cases, consumers may have experienced job loss or may now be homeless as a result of the storms, qualifying them for a life-event that permits them to make changes to their health insurance before the regular enrollment season begins. Unfortunately, you may have difficulty locating important documentation, such as financial statements or health records, that you would need to qualify for subsidies or other benefits.

Only Federal Exchanges

All states affected by the hurricanes use the federal marketplace for health insurance rather than their own marketplaces, which is why residents of these states can take advantage of this special enrollment period. If those states had chosen to set up their own marketplace, impacted customers would have been unable to use the extension. Although residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are eligible for Medicare extensions due to the hurricanes, they are not eligible to participate in the special enrollment period for the healthcare exchanges. Medicare recipients in the U.S. were given the same extension as those who utilize the federal exchanges.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration shortened the enrollment period from the 12 weeks set by the Obama administration to 6 weeks, running from November 1 through December 15. The extension to the federal exchange enrollment period gives consumers affected by the recent hurricanes an additional two weeks to sign up for or renew their health coverage.