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Special health insurance enrollment period could help Floridians at risk of losing Medicaid

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The enrollment period started in March and is open to anyone making 150% of the federal poverty level or less.

Floridians who may not be able to afford health insurance can now get access to free coverage under a special enrollment period for Affordable Care Act plans.

The expanded enrollment comes as the federal health emergency that helped millions of people gain Medicaid coverage during the pandemic could be ending in the coming months.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the special enrollment period in March to help Americans making up to 150% of the federal poverty level receive free health insurance coverage. For an individual, the cutoff is $19,320 and for a family of four it's $39,750.

Officials say the temporary expansion could help those who have gained access to Medicaid during the public health emergency, which started early on in the pandemic and continues today.

The public health emergency provided additional Medicaid funding to states during the pandemic and prevented them from disenrolling people from their Medicaid programs.

In Florida, enrollment in Medicaid programs for adults and children increased by 23 percent, or 826,760 people, between February 2020 and September 2021, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But as the federal government considers ending the public health emergency in the coming months, thousands of Florida residents are at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage.

The Biden administration previously extended the public health emergency until April 16 and has said it would give states at least 60 days notice before ending it.

For individuals and families that received extra support during the pandemic, losing their coverage now could be difficult, said Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families.

“People who might have their health coverage taken away from them or might lose it might feel like the bottom is falling out,” Ray said. “And the key here is, it's not, because there is this other option that can help so many of these folks.”

Ray’s group has been helping Floridians sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act since the first open enrollment period in 2013.

The group and its partners across Florida will be available to help those who need to sign up for health insurance during this special enrollment period, she said.

“Covering Florida navigators will be able to help them navigate through that process so that they can maintain their access to health care services that they need,” Ray said.

One of the goals of the expansion is for people to get continued access to health care after the public health emergency is over, she said.

“This provides an additional option for them to get coverage that they can afford.” Ray said.

The special enrollment period began mid-March and will continue through December.

To sign up, visit healthcare.gov or contact Covering Florida at 877-813-9115 or www.coveringflorida.org.

Katrine Bruner is the WUSF Rush Family/Health News Florida intern for spring 2022.
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