As Americans prepare for Thanksgiving, another annual tradition is upon us: open enrollment on the health insurance marketplace. Millions of Americans can be thankful for access to health insurance via Healthcare.gov.
Open enrollment began on November 1, 2021. Already, more than 1.6 million people in 33 states have newly enrolled or renewed their coverage on the marketplace, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Of these, approximately 287,000 were new enrollees, while the majority (more than 1.3 million) renewed their coverage from last year.
Though the political debates about the Affordable Care Act have died down after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a third challenge to the law earlier this year, consumer interest in coverage remains strong. In total, nearly 2.5 million applications have been submitted, with 1.2 million submitted in the past week alone.
Consumers who shop for health insurance on Healthcare.gov this year are likely to find more options available to them.
For 2022, 213 health insurance issuers are participating on the marketplace, an increase of 32 issuers over last year. On average, enrollees will have between six and seven plan issuers to choose from, compared to an average of four or five last year. The vast majority (89%) of enrollees will be able to choose from three or more issuers. Only 2% of enrollees will have only one option, down from 4% last year.
This increased participation by insurance companies translates to more individual plan options, too. This year, enrollees will have an average of more than 100 plans to choose from across four metallic tiers—bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. These tiers correspond to the value of the coverage and usually to the cost of that coverage as well. For 2022, enrollees will have an average of 41 bronze plans and 46 silver plans, typically the lowest cost options available.
In addition to having more choices, consumers may well have more affordable options this year.
Net premiums decreased thanks to enhanced subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP).
According to CMS, two-thirds of enrollees should be able to find a qualified health plan on the marketplace for less than $10 per month with these subsidies, up from 31% before the ARP. A family of four earning less than 250% of the federal poverty level—or $26,500 per year—could pay as little as $3 per month in premiums, down from $75 before the ARP.
Consumers’ share of costs in some plans have also decreased this year. The average individual deductible decreased from $6,991 to $6,935 for bronze plans and from $1,528 to $1,398 for gold plans.
More than 2 million people had already enrolled in health insurance on Healthcare.gov during a Special Enrollment Period established by a Biden Administration executive order earlier this year. Another 738,000 enrolled in state-based health insurance marketplaces during this time.
During open enrollment, people can enroll or switch plans for any reason. Given the expanded subsidies and pricing changes, people with existing coverage may be able to save money by actively reviewing the current options rather than passively renewing the same coverage.
Consumers who don’t update their information and make new selections by December 15 will be automatically reenrolled in coverage for January 1, 2022. People who didn’t want the same plan can update their selections by January 15, effective February 1, 2022.
More help will be available to people reviewing the options this year. CMS has allocated $80 million in funds for health insurance navigators for the next three years, a stark increase over the $10 million allocated annually during the Trump Administration.
The calendar for open enrollment has also changed, giving people more time to sign up. This open enrollment period on Healthcare.gov will end on January 15, 2022, though people will still need to sign up by December 15, 2021 to get coverage effective January 1, 2022.
Lower income people will also have more opportunities to enroll after open enrollment. The new rules allow people who earn up to 150% of the federal poverty level—or just over $19,000 per year for an individual—to enroll during a special enrollment period each month.
In 21 states that operate their own health insurance marketplaces—which this year includes three additional states (Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico)—deadlines may vary.