The end of the first public exchange open enrollment period could lead to a big shift in business at any insurance agency or brokerage that sells much individual health insurance.
HHS officials and state regulators developed the open enrollment system to try to discourage consumers from waiting until they get sick to buy coverage.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared at a congressional hearing last week that she still plans to close open enrollment on March 31. Regulators in some states, including Nevada, have talked about extending their enrollment.
If rules prevail, consumers in any state with a federal exchange and in most states with a state-based one will lose their ability to buy any individual commercial major medical coverage from April 1 through Nov. 15 – the scheduled start of next year’s enrollment.
Individuals could still sign up for Medicaid and other government health programs, and employers could sign up for exchange or non-exchange coverage.
Individuals could get permission to have a “special enrollment period” by showing they had undergone an unusual life event, such as the loss of group coverage or the birth of a child, or that they qualified for a hardship exemption for some other reason.