Biden administration doubling down on ACA open enrollment outreach campaigns with health equity in mind

(Getty/kroach)

The Biden administration has extended the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period by one month and invested in a more robust outreach campaign as part of its efforts to bolster the legislation.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) kicked off Monday the start of the HealthCare.gov open enrollment period, which has been extended to Jan. 15, 2022.

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said the American Rescue Plan greatly improved the financial assistance available during the open enrollment period, significantly lowering people’s premiums.

"Four out of five consumers will be able to find plans for $10 per month or less with this newly expanded financial assistance," Brooks-LaSure said during a call with reporters Monday.

There also are more coverage options this season than last, with the average consumer being able to choose between six and seven insurance companies with plan options according to CMS.

RELATED: HHS: ACA exchange enrollment reaches 12.2M thanks to enhanced subsidies

With the aim of helping communities with disproportionately high uninsured rates, the Biden administration quadrupled its ACA navigator footprint to 1,500, which provides access to navigators in nearly every county in the federal marketplace states, Brooks-LaSure said.

There are over 5,500 assistants, including navigators, certified application counselors and others along with more than 48,000 agents and brokers. 

Brooks-LaSure said CMS also is doubling down on efforts to advance health equity during the open enrollment period by investing in a robust outreach campaign. CMS relaunched its “Champions for Coverage” program, which includes more than 2,100 local organizations that will provide outreach and education about the marketplace and how consumers can enroll in coverage. 

As part of HHS’ marketing and outreach efforts, the department also is concentrating its outreach on people who are most in need of care and who have historically lacked access. Marketing efforts will include content in many different languages and advertising will be available in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Hindi.

RELATED: CMS: More than 2M have signed up for coverage on ACA exchanges under special enrollment period

In April, the Biden administration announced it would give ACA navigators $80 million for the 2022 plan year, reversing slides in funding that occurred during the Trump administration.

A COVID-19 special enrollment period over the summer increased enrollment in the ACA's federal and state-run insurance exchanges to 12.2 million people, as sign-ups were buoyed by boosted tax credits, federal data show. More than 2.8 million people signed up for coverage during the 2021 special enrollment period that ended last month. 

A recent HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation report also indicates increases in Medicaid and marketplace enrollment helped offset decreases in employer-sponsored coverage tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
However, it also showed that uninsured rates continue to be higher in certain populations, including Latinos (18%) and Blacks (10%), people with incomes below the poverty level (17%) and residents of states that have not expanded Medicaid (18%).

"There is more work to be done," Brooks-LaSure said.

A recent study from the Urban Institute finds that many uninsured Americans lack information about the ACA's exchanges and the subsidies that may be available to them on the marketplaces. Fewer than half (48.2%) of non-elderly adults who were uninsured in April 2021 said they had heard "a lot" or "some" about the marketplaces.